MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around   2022
 57,903 reviews
   and more ... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here
Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Monte madrigals RAM2004
Support us financially by purchasing from

Philippe de MONTE (1521-1603)
Madrigals and chansons
Ratas del viejo Mundo/Floris De Rycker
rec. 2020, Jezuietenkerk, Leer, Belgium
Texts and translations included
Reviewed as a stereo 16/44 download with pdf booklet from Outhere
RAMÉE RAM2004 [50:59]

Philippe de Monte was one of the main composers of his time and highly respected across Europe. Surprisingly that has not resulted in a large number of recordings of his music in our time. During many years of reviewing, hardly any discs with his music have landed on my desk. That could be a matter of coincidence, but my impression that he is not well represented on disc is confirmed by Peter Van Heyghen, who states in his liner-notes to the recording under review here that "there are currently about ten times more CD recordings of the works of [Orlandus] Lassus [1532-1594] than there are of works by de Monte".

Last year was the commemoration of de Monte's birth, but that has not been given much attention. The present disc seems to be the only one that is connected to it. Most performers of renaissance music were probably busy with performing music by Josquin Desprez, who died in the same year as de Monte was born. That is understandable, but also regrettable. Josquin is one of the most frequently-performed composers of the Renaissance and hardly needs commemoration events.

Like Josquin and Lassus, de Monte was from Flanders: he was born in Mechelen and received his first musical education as a choirboy at St Rombout's Cathedral. By 1542 he was working in Naples, which had a lasting influence on his development as a composer. He became acquainted with the genre of the madrigal and with the Italian language. A contemporary wrote that he "knew his Italian as if he were a native Italian". The madrigal became the genre to which de Monte contributed most of his works and which brought him particular fame.

Twice he was a candidate for a major position: in 1555 for that of Kapellmeister at the Bavarian court in Munich and in 1562 that of maestro di cappella of St Mark's in Venice. In both cases he was not appointed. It is not entirely clear what the reasons may have been: whether he himself was not interested in these posts or whether other composers, Lassus and De Rore respectively, were preferred. In 1568 he became Kapellmeister to the imperial court in Vienna. There he served two emperors: first Maximilian II until his death in 1576, and then Rudolf II, who moved the court to Prague.

The reason that there are relatively few recordings devoted to de Monte's music is not a lack of repertoire. He was the most prolific composer of his time, and wrote almost 800 works: madrigals, chansons, motets, masses and other sacred works. A large part of his output was published and many of his works have been preserved in libraries and archives all over Europe. One reason for the lack of recordings may be that a considerable part of his oeuvre is not available in a modern edition. It was only in 2016 that a complete list of his works was compiled and published.

From these facts one has to conclude that there is something about de Monte why he does not speak to the imagination of performers. A part of the explanation may be the lack of anything spectacular in his biography and his music. Van Heyghen writes: "He was neither an innovator nor ground breaker, as were Cipriano de Rore and Giaches de Wert, nor was he physically present at important historical events, as had been Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina in Rome during the Counter-Reformation or Andrea Gabrieli in Venice after the city's victory over the Ottomans." He also mentions that de Monte seems not to have been very concerned over the promotion of his music, unlike Lassus. Van Heyghen refers to the Flemish scholar Ignace Bossuyt who wrote that de Monte's music is intended for connoisseurs. It is refined and rather introverted. Moreover, de Monte did not keep up with the fashion of his time to express the text in music and to make abundantly use of what has become known as 'madrigalisms'. Van Heyghen, referring to the prefaces to several of his collections of music: "He emphasized the interaction between finely-proportioned music and moral virtue in 1572 and first condemned, on the basis of an antique myth, the exaggerated theatrical gesture for the sake of effective expression in 1578, and subsequently reiterated the idea that music and music-making can not only give pleasure, but can also evoke wonderful effects and affects in a well-harmonised human spirit. He also warned against the dangers of excess and insufficient restraint in this respect".

This gives us a pretty good insight into his oeuvre and way of thinking. Restraint and modesty may be exactly the reasons why his music is not that often performed. I remember having read that his music was considered 'boring'. If restraint is a reason why his music is not that much appreciated today, that may tell us more about our own time than about the quality of de Monte's music.

It cannot be appreciated enough that the ensemble Ratas del viejo Mundo recorded a programme of music by de Monte. However, whether this disc really helps to change the general opinion on de Monte and will result in a reassessment of his oeuvre seems questionable. To begin with, the performers have been rather economical in the selection of music: a little over 50 minutes can hardly do justice to the wealth of de Monte's oeuvre. Then, the selection is a little one-sided: only two motets have been included, and both are performed instrumentally.

The singing is very good, but I often had the feeling that the performances lack depth. Too often the tempi seem a fraction too fast, which results in a lack of attention to the text. The participation of instruments may well be justified, as Van Heyghen argues in his liner-notes. They are used here in various roles: either they play a vocal piece, or they support the voices or replace one or several of them. La grand'amour, for instance, is performed by a solo voice with instruments, whereas Quando da gl'occhi del divin mio sole is performed as a solo with guitar accompaniment. However, some pieces are performed three times: first we hear a vocal version, then an instrumental performance, and lastly another vocal performance of the same text. I can't see any reason for that. I would have preferred a larger and more varied selection of pieces. Lastly, it is a mystery to me why the performers decided to use modern pronunciation in the French chansons.

Setting all those considerations apart, I strongly recommend this disc as it is one of the few which pays serious attention to a composer who is unjustly neglected. A thorough exploration of his oeuvre is long overdue. Everything that is done to put him on the map has to be welcomed.

Johan van Veen

S'io odo alcun felice, e lieto amante/Amor, che sol de i cor leggiadri ha cura/S'io odo alcun felice, e lieto amante (arr. Piet Stryckers, *1955) [4:29]
Sortez regretz et allegez mon coeur [2:06]
Poi ch'el mio largo pianto (arr. Joachim van den Hove, 1567?-1620) [2:26]
Oimè, che belle lacrime fur quelle [3:38]
O triste ennuy, o fortune meschante [6:27]
Domine Jesu Christe (arr. Giulio Cesare Barbetta, 1540-1603) [3:19]
Ombra son io, sepolto in queste pene [3:00]
La grand'amour que mon las coeur vous porte [3:48]
Se tropp'alto desir mi pung'il core/O beata colei, ch'al fin puo dire [4:49]
Adoramus te Christe [1:14]
Di dí in dí vo cangiando il viso e'l pelo [4:28]
Quando da gl'occhi del divin mio sole [2:15]
Giunto m'à Amor fra belle et crude braccia [2:04]
Alma ben nata se mi duol e dolse [1:31]
Io son si vago de li miei sospiri [2:13]
Se voi per me sentiste quel ch'io sento [3:02]

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount