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Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)
Il terzo libro de madrigali, 1592
Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini
rec. 31 May - 2 June 2019, Chiesa di San Filippo, Reggio Emilia, Italy
NA¤VE OP30580 [64:33]

Over the years, Rinaldo Alessandrini and his ensemble, Concerto Italiano, have proved themselves to be one of the pre-eminent interpreters of the music of Claudio Monteverdi. This disc is the latest in a long line of recordings. Many of them have garnered the highest praise for the detailed and colourful interpretations, and earned a cherished place in any Monteverdi collection.

Concerto Italiano’s first recording of the madrigals is over thirty years old. Tastes change, research progresses, so they keep revisiting some of the books. See for instance Il Sesto Libro de Madrigali (on Arcana A425, review; or on Na´ve OP 30423). This disc fits in nicely. Its strong articulation and dramatic declamations from the ensemble make one take notice from the very first notes.

Madrigals in the Book Three are early works, almost transitional. Monteverdi wrote them when he was around 25 year old, and published them when the late flowering of the high renaissance was being overtaken by the early Baroque style. They may not be as dramatic as his later masterpieces of the madrigal writing, but they still show a degree of what was to come. They point the way to the supreme achievement of madrigal writing in Books Seven or Eight. Monteverdi’s skill in vocal writing is clear. He twists and melds the five voices superbly, and they get a performance to match. La giovinetta pianta sets the scene quite wonderfully. Its allegorical description of the flower glowing in the summer sun is symbolic of the development of the young maidens and the burgeoning love of the poet. In Sovra tenere erbette e bianchi fiori, the poet writes of his despair as his love has looked beyond him for another. But it is O rossignuol che in queste verdi fronde which is often regarded as one of Monteverdi’s early madrigal masterpieces. It is not difficult to see why: the beauty of text, setting and performance are a highlight here.

Concerto Italiano are perfectly balanced and well drilled by Alessandrini. The recording may be one of the finest on disc. The recording of the Third Book by La Venexiani and Claudio Cavina (on Glossa GCD 920929) is my usual benchmark, and this new recording is its equal; specific pieces come out best in one or the other. The production values are similarly high – excellent recorded sound and fine booklet notes. I would not be without either.

Stuart Sillitoe

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