Vivat Music http://vivatmusic.com/have brought together fourteen pieces of Monteverdi’s finest secular music drawn from L'Orfeo and L'Incoronazione di Poppea as well as many of his books of madrigals.
This new release features the Kings Consort http://tkcworld.org directed by Robert King with sopranos Carolyn Sampson, Rebecca Outram and Julie Cooper, mezzo sopranos Sarah Connolly and Diana Moore, tenors Charles Daniels, John Bowen and James Gilchrist and basses Robert Evans and Michael George. I fine line up if ever there was one. www.carolynsampson.com www.sarah-connolly.com www.rayfieldallied.com/artists/diana-moore www.charles-daniels-society.org.uk www.hazardchase.co.uk/artists/charles-daniels www.jamesgilchrist.co.uk/home.html
The Kings Consort has a fine instrumental line-up that includes three violins, two violas, a bass violin, a violone, two chitarrrone, two guitars, a double harp, two cornets, three sackbuts and organ and harpsichord that produce a terrific sound under the direction of Robert King.
The toccata from L’Orfeo makes a grand opening with the lovely sounds of the Kings Consort, before the Ritornello and Dal mio permesso from that same opera, with further glorious sounds from the consort in the opening that precedes the entry of that fine soprano, Carolyn Sampson, in exquisitely fine voice, flexible, musical and with rich timbres. Tenors Charles Daniels and James Gilchrist blend and play off each other brilliantly in Zefiro torna from Scherzi musicali of 1632, with such fine Italian feeling.
Ohimè, dov’è il mio ben is from the Seventh Book of Madrigals with Carolyn Sampson and Rebecca Outram providing some fabulous singing in ‘Alas, where is my love? Where is my heart?’, with these two fine sopranos making a perfect blend of voices, full of feeling. What lovely control at the end. Again from the Seventh Book of Madrigals comes Chiome d’oro where, after a buoyant opening from the Kings Consort, Carolyn Sampson and Rebecca Outram enter together, perfectly balanced and with such a light touch.
A Dio, Roma, the Lament of Ottaria from L’Incoronazione di Poppea opens with gloriously rich notes from the chitarrone before mezzo soprano Sarah Connolly sings an intense ‘Farewell, Rome, my Fatherland, my friends, Farewell’ in another stunning performance from another fine artist. As the aria continues, the drama and intensity increase with some beautiful accompaniment from the instrumentalists of the Kings Consort. A Dio, Florida bella, from the Sixth Book of Madrigals features Carolyn Sampson, Diana Moore, Charles Daniels, John Bowen and Michael George. Charles Daniels enters as Floro singing ‘Farewell, Florida, my aching heart’ before Carolyn Sampson as Florida sings ‘Dearest Floro, farewell: may Love console.’ When the solo voices come together, they complete a fine performance, with each voice so fine yet making a lovely ensemble.
Charles Daniels and James Gilchrist provide another strong duet with Interrotte speranze from the Seventh Book of Madrigals, finely built in drama, slowly rising with terrific support from the Kings Consort, particularly those amazing chitarrone who make some lovely sounds. Lamento d’Arianna “Lasciatemi morire” from the Sixth Book of Madrigals, again has Carolyn Sampson, Diana Moore, Charles Daniels, John Bowen and Michael George providing a perfectly blended and controlled ensemble to open this lament ‘Let me die, let me die. How can I console myself?’ This is fine artistry.
Passente spirto from L’Orfeo brings the strong voice of Charles Daniels, beautiful in the decorations and very much conjuring up the feeling of which he sings in the words ‘Powerful spirit, awesome deity’ with a palpable sense of awe. The cornettes of the Kings Consort provide a melancholy sound with the double harp adding a further striking sound. This is a wonderful performance from Daniels. Carolyn Sampson and Rebecca Outram again bring a lovely blend of voices in O come sei gentile from the Seventh Book of Madrigals. It is the way they achieve such finesse and balance that marks out this duet.
Charles Daniels, John Bowen and Michael George bring a slightly satirical manner to their richly blended Lamento della Ninfa from the Eighth Book of Madrigals. When Carolyn Sampson arrives she brings a sense of loss, responded to in a serious vein by the male singers, who sound exquisite as they sing ‘Miserella’. Cruda Amarilli from the Fifth Book of Madrigals brings Carolyn Sampson, Julie Cooper, Charles Daniels, John Bowen and Michael George again showing how the solo voices blend as an ensemble, yet with distinctive vocal sounds, as they sing ‘Cruel Amaryllis, who with your name to love, alas, bitterly you teach.’
Finally there is the incomparable Hor che ‘I ciel, e la terra from the Eighth Book of Madrigals with Carolyn Sampson, Diana Moore, Charles Daniels, John Bowen, Robert Evans and Michael George. From the quiet, tentative opening, ‘Now that the heavens, earth and wind are silent’ a tremendously expectant atmosphere is built. ‘Wakeful, I think, burn, weep’ is wonderfully sung, dramatic, and thoughtful, with so many great contributions from individual voices in the faster, dramatic sections. There are some lovely parts where the voices slowly rise and, at the end, a stunningly performed part when the upper voices rise into the heights and the lower voices to the depths. This is terrific and a fine end to this disc.
This is a beautifully produced disc, finely recorded, with first rate notes. If I were only able to have one disc of works by Monteverdi this would have to be the one.