Monteverdi: Madrigals Book 2/Longhini

Review by: David Vernier

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

After hearing the excellent Book 3 in this series from Marco Longhini and his Delitiae Musicae (type Q7709 in Search Reviews), I had to go back and hear the recording of Book 2 that I had somehow overlooked–and just like its successor, this one is another winner. Here the 22-year-old Monteverdi was concerned with the vivid imagery of nature and the lyrical and often impassioned portrayals of love depicted in the poetry of Torquato Tasso–and indeed these 21 madrigals are a virtual textbook on the art of musical word and scene painting and in the technique of packing a lot of drama into very little space with minimal performing forces. You have only to hear the opening two-part Non si levav’ancor l’alba novella to understand how a work in this genre could be called a masterpiece.

And while the singing on this disc and in these madrigals is sometimes more aggressive and emphatic–yet still balanced with many moments of more subtle, gentle expressions–than in Book 3, some of this can be attributed to the engineering (and perhaps the different venue), with its closer perspective and higher recording level. The rest is simply due to the different character of the music, which the ensemble captures with nothing less than exemplary style and captivating, scintillating vocalism. These unusual all-male Monteverdi madrigal performances are turning out to be the versions of choice–definitely worth serious attention.

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