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Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)
Madrigals Book 9 (1651) – Scherzi musicali (1632)
DelitiŠ MusicŠ/Marco Longhini
rec. 2006, Chiesa di San Pietro in Vincoli, Azzago, Verona
NAXOS 8.555318 [74:37]

It might have taken seventeen years to complete, but here at last is the final volume of Marco Longhini’s survey of the complete madrigals of Claudio Monteverdi. It ends with a bang, as it presents the often-neglected Book Nine of previously unpublished madrigals, brought together by the composer’s publisher in 1651, some eight years after Monteverdi died. This has led to the book being rejected as an official collection, but it contains some of his finest madrigals and includes settings of texts that Monteverdi had previously used in alternative musical arrangements in different books.

My introduction to Bel pastor dal cui bel guardo and Zefiro torna e di soavi accenti came through the wonderful performance by Concerto Vocale on Harmonia Mundi (HMC 901129), where Helga MŘller-Molinari and RenÚ Jacobs (as countertenor) together wove a magical performance, setting a high bar. I am I am sorry to say that this disc does not match it; I much prefer the blend of the mezzo and countertenor in the Harmonia Mundi disc to that of the countertenor Alessandro Carmignani and the baritone Marco Scavazza, as used here in Bel Pastor; however, its dramatic nature comes over well, as does that of Zefiro torna with the two tenors, Fabio F¨rnari and Paolo Fanciullacci. That is one of my favourite pieces by the composer and arguably one of his masterpieces. That however, is purely my personal preference, as there is no doubt that these are fine performances in their own right.

The Harmonia Mundi disc contains only the two madrigals from this book, but it prompted me to buy the performance of Primo libro and Nono libro dei madrigali by La Venexiana and Claudio Cavina on Glossa (GCD920921). La Venexiana’s use of male and female voices makes for a more secure recording; however, the all-male vocalists of DelitiŠ MusicŠ give an exciting performance. Although I do not have all of their releases in this series, this disc displays the group’s usual consummate musicality, while the historical research they have undertaken is apparent in the performance and the accompanying booklet. It is really good to have the two famous cantatas placed in the context of the complete book, which includes many other excellent pieces such as the dramatic Alcun non mi consigli and the boisterous S¨, s¨, s¨, pastorelli vezzosi, and the placing of Biagio Marini’s Sinfonia prima Ó 3 as a preface to Book 9 displays the wonderful instrumentalists of DelitiŠ MusicŠ at their best.

The disc concludes with the six Scherzi Musicali of 1632; again, these six “Musical Jokes” are well performed, the excellent Et Ŕ pur dunque vero being the highlight. This, the longest of the six pieces, is wonderfully sung by Alessandro Carmignani, who shows detailed tonal and breath control; it also includes the ciaccona that Monteverdi would later employ in Zefiro torna, and thus makes an apt conclusion to this disc and the series as a whole. The booklet contains detailed notes in English with full texts and translations, and the sound is very good.

Stuart Sillitoe

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