Notes and Editorial Reviews
This stunning new set follows Books 3 and 7 (26:4); Book 4 (28:5), Book 2 (reviewed elsewhere), and Book 6 (announced already) to bring us more than halfway to the first complete set of Monteverdi’s published books of madrigals, a goal still not attained after many starts. This book is much more elaborate than the first six books, which were collections of five-part vocal pieces in the true madrigal style. Like Book 7, this one is a collection of vocal works in diverse forms. As the notes put it so well, the objective of all of these forms is the same as that of true madrigals, the representation of human passions through the link between the poetic text and the music. This book includes two works of extended length, Ballo delle Ingrate and
Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. The latter, first performed in 1624, has been recorded at least 36 times, frequently in performances of extraordinary effect. Its full realization calls for acting, and it gives us the closest understanding of Monteverdi’s approach to opera between L’Orfeo of 1607 and the two late works of 1641 and 1642. But among the 22 separate pieces published here, there are many longtime favorites. As long ago as 1972, every single work had been recorded several times, with 10 versions each of Lamento della Ninfa, Hor che’l ciel, and Altri canti d’Amor, not to mention 14 of Combattimento.
Of the six complete sets, Edwin Loehrer and Raymond Leppard come from another era. Anthony Rooley on Virgin (14:4; 15:2) and the present set traverse the music in the same total time, although in Volgendo il ciel Rooley’s set includes an eight-minute balletto by Biagio Marini. René Jacobs on Harmonia Mundi (26:5) and Emanuela Marcante on Tactus (the latter not received for review) fit all the music onto two CDs (Jacobs runs 156 minutes). Jacobs shaves six minutes from Ballo delle ingrate, while Combattimento runs 17:44 under Jacobs, 21:45 under Rooley, and 25:14 under Cavina. For the rest, Jacobs takes less time for each piece than Cavina with only two minor exceptions. Rooley, who falls in the middle of the three sets in timing, is generally slightly faster than Cavina in each piece, the six exceptions coming close to even. The major cause of Jacobs’s shorter playing times is the omission of instrumental interludes. The difference reduces the set by a whole disc.
Rooley’s ensemble consisted of six stellar names led by Emma Kirkby. Jacobs used 12 singers, the most famous Maria Cristina Kiehr. Cavina also uses 12 singers, including his own countertenor voice, bass Daniele Carnovich, and three others, all five of whom have been with the group since this project started. Four of them also sang together in Concerto Italiano, which completed four and a half books of these madrigals for a set that ended there. All three ensembles capture the passion and the poetry of this superb collection of music. Without withdrawing my firm endorsement of Jacobs in the previous review, I have to recommend a hearing for this wonderfully accomplished effort. A devotee could compare endlessly the individual works in the three sets, deriving some insight into the music from each one. I am anticipating Glossa’s last two books eagerly.
FANFARE: J. F. Weber
Works on This Recording
Madrigals, Book 8 by Claudio Monteverdi
Written: by 1638; Italy
Be the first to review this title