Arcangelo / Jonathan Cohen

Love and Loss

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Monteverdi's madrigals don't fall quite under a genre umbrella the way Haydn's string quartets do, or for that matter Thomas Morley's madrigals. Even within the last three books, from which British group Arcangelo and leader Jonathan Cohen draw on this recording, there is a great variety of pieces: polyphonic and monodic, dramatic and lyric, instrumentally accompanied and a cappella, melancholy and spirited. To put a series of greatest hits together, as Arcangelo does here, will result, despite the album title, in a hugely varied program that may work better in some places than others, and so it is here. Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda (track 5), an action-packed setting of a long poem drawn from a Crusader legend, is almost a short opera, while the famed Zefiro torna (track 8) is a landmark in which the balance of the old madrigal was combined for the first time with the new concerted (instrumental) style. The Combattimento, with tenor James Gilchrist joining the ensemble, is the highlight; Gilchrist sounds terrific and gets into the patter-like "stile concitato" style. Follow along with the enclosed text to get something of how gripping this work must have been when it first appeared. The Arcangelo vocalists otherwise are a mixed bag; they lay emphasis on the pungent dissonances that are the hallmark of Monteverdi's style in the vocal ensemble pieces, but the group sound is a bit bland. Still, a worthwhile collection of familiar Monteverdi madrigals for listeners who wish to avoid the blood-and-guts renditions of the contemporary Italian scene.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Ballo: Volgendo il ciel - Movete al mio bel suon (Madrigals, Book 8)
1 5:42
2 2:02
3 3:04
Ballo: Volgendo il ciel - Movete al mio bel suon (Madrigals, Book 8)
4 2:02
5 20:03
6 8:12
7 5:14
8 3:45
9 4:21
Sestina: Lagrime d'amante al sepolcro dell'amata (Madrigals, Book 6)
10 2:24
11 1:49
12 2:18
13 2:55
14 2:26
15 3:38
blue highlight denotes track pick