Sara Mingardo has been creating quite a stir in baroque circles but this is my first chance to catch up with her. In one sense she may be considered a "typical" baroque singer, in the sense that she uses a completely straight vocal production, from which vibrato has been rigorously excluded, and cultivates a somewhat plangent, nasal sound, with the result that a casual listener might suppose he was listening to a counter-tenor.
To sense the emotional charge coursing through Carlo Gesualdo at the time when he was composing his Sixth Book of Madrigals, there is no better starting point than a thrilling new recording being issued on Glossa from La Compagnia del Madrigale. Some of the finest singers in the madrigal repertoire today – including Giuseppe Maletto, Daniele Carnovich and Rossana Bertini, and they have been refining their a cappella artistry over more than twenty years with groups such as La Venexiana and Concerto Italiano – now restore humanness, warmth, pictorial beauty and richness to one of the most complex cycles in all music. This marks the group’s triumphant entry onto a label which has always made the exploration of the Italian madrigal repertory one of its cornerstones.
Monteverdi was only 23 when he published his Second Book of Madrigals in 1590, but he was already a master of the form, and these contrapuntally lively pieces, with their supple and astute text setting, are crowning works of late Renaissance secular polyphony. With this release of the Second Book, Rinaldo Alessandrini moves closer to his goal of recording all of Monteverdi's eight Books of Madrigals, performed by Concerto Italiano, the ensemble he founded in 1984. The series has received much-deserved critical acclaim; three of the releases won Gramophone Awards, and this 1994 recording won a Diapason d'Or. Concerto Italiano is a group whose roster is flexible, based on the requirements of the music performed, and here seven unaccompanied singers configure themselves in a variety of combinations in the five-part madrigals.
The members of the ensemble La Venexiana won in 1994 the Gramophone Award for Early Music under the name Concerto Italiano. They are some of the most experienced European performers in the early music field, and have been singing together for many years, establishing a new style in Italian early music performances: a warm, truly Mediterranean blend of textual declamation, textural color and harmonic refinement. This repertoire seems to be created as if to let them fully show their expressive powers. Barbara Strozzi's talent shines in this pieces, designed to show her excepcional dramatic powers and unique gifts for musical imaginery. Many of these madrigals have the appearance of a succession of operatic scenes in miniature, each with its particular dramatic atmosphere and with the participation of several soloists.
La Venexiana's Secondo Libro del Madrigali is the second volume in an edition devoted to the recording of all eight of Claudio Monteverdi's madrigal collections undertaken by the Spanish label Glossa. In promotional materials for the series, Glossa admits that this is a "time when 'complete' recordings seem to be coming less meaningful and attractive for the music lover" but have decided that there is need for such a series, especially as La Venexiana is so well-versed in the madrigals of Monteverdi.
To complete their masterful Monteverdi Edition, Claudio Cavina and La Venexiana start at the beginning - the Madrigali a cinque voci… Book One. Monteverdi's exploration of the madrigal art form, was to occupy the composer for more than 50 years..
This box set assembles the complete Monteverdi recordings that William Christie and Les Arts Florissants made for harmonia mundi over some fifteen years. Together, they constantly refreshed their inspiration at the wellspring of his finest and most famous madrigals, with a memorable incursion into the sacred repertory of the Selva morale.