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Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)
Scherzi musicali (72:39)
María Cristina Kiehr (soprano), Stephan MacLeod (baritone)
Concerto Soave/Jean-Marc Aymes (claviorganum)
Rec. March 2004, Peter und Paul Kirche, Reutlingen-Gönningen, Germany
HARMONIA MUNDI HMA1951855 [72:39]

In addition to his eight books of madrigals, Monteverdi also practised less ambitious vocal forms which he designated canzonette, arie or scherzi. Here is a broad selection of twenty of these. They are mostly taken from the two books of 'Scherzi musicali' (1606 and 1632) which give the CD its title. But the selection is a bit wider-ranging than that makes it sound. The Canzonette a tre voci he published in 1584 – when he was only 17 – and already master of the prima prattica, are represented by two items, and there is even a madrigal from Book VII, as well as a harp solo (by Anon.) and a claviorganum solo by Frescobaldi. This range and its sensible sequencing makes it quite possible to listen to the whole disc with pleasure right through.

One of the two featured canzonette is “Come farò, cuor mio?”, in which a very delicate harp texture accompanies the solo soprano. It is as light as a perfectly judged soufflé, and as delicious. The three-part texture (solo soprano and bass, plus the instrumental group) of the ensuing “Lidia spina del mio core” is a contrast not just in texture and tempi, but mood. Quel sguardo sdegnosetto opens with a guitar solo, and gives soprano María Cristina Kiehr a lively and joyously sprightly vocal line to negotiate, which she does admirably. She also brings a wry sensibility - ‘yes I’m suffering but it will pass…’ - to such lovers’ complaints as the very touching “Si dolce è'l tormento” or the more satirical sounding “Ohimè ch'io cado”. She has several vocal manners and tonal colours at her command, and the musical intuition to deploy them intelligently. Bass Stephan MacLeod blends in very well in duets and has a persuasive monodic style in his few solos.

There is instrumental playing of spirit, seduction, or sadness as required, by the members of Concerto Soave. Jean-Marc Aymes directs with sensitivity and good period manners, and plays the Frescobaldi solo on the claviorganum beautifully. The sound is near ideal, with just the right balance between voices and instruments, in the sort of intimate acoustic in which they were first heard. There is a good booklet note but no texts or translations, which is a pity when the music is so text-driven, whether by its general mood or specific details such as word-painting. But if you assume from the spirit of any piece that it concerns either the joys or the pains of love, you won’t often be far wrong.

Stravinsky kept a picture of Monteverdi on his wall, and when a journalist asked why, he responded “He is a composer with whom I identify; in fact he is the earliest composer with whom it is possible to identify.” Most of us identify with the operas, madrigals, or the 1610 Vespers and other church music. But for the fullest picture we need also to know something of these inimitable scherzi musicali. It is Monteverdi in lighter mood to be sure, but always attractively melodic. Here is an inexpensive and very enjoyable way to discover the serious seventeenth century with its tongue in its cheek.

Roy Westbrook
Fugge 'l verno de' dolori [3:26]
Come farò, cuor mio?, SV 11 [3:08]
Lidia spina del mio core [4:24]
Damigella tutta bella [2:34]
Quel sguardo sdegnosetto [3:00]
Più lieto il guardo [3:50]
Et è pur dunque vero [6:24]
Si dolce è'l tormento (from Libro Nono di Magrigali e Canzonette) [3:21]
Clori amorosa [4:07]
Ecco di dolci raggi [0:57]
Lo che'armato sin hor [1:20]
Eri già tutta mia [2:35]
Maledetto sia l'aspetto [1:03]
Aria detta Balleto pour lavecin [4:16]
Quando sperai [2:27]
Quand l'Alba in Oriente [4:09]
Toccata arpeggiata (harp solo) [2:48]
Se i languidi miei sguardi [7:46]
Ohime ch'io cado [4:26]
De la bellezza le dovute lodi [6:26]



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