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 ensemble is notable for the near ideal balance between maintaining the individuality of each of the voices and creating a blended sound, a crucial element for madrigals of the period, where much interest is generated by the dynamic tension of individuals interacting as members of a group. The intonation is flawless, and while the tone is consistently clean and pure, each member sings with warmth, passion, and distinctiveness. Alessandrini's performances have a rhythmic flexibility that subtly accentuates the meaning of the texts, to which the singers respond with exceptional sensitivity and understanding. This release would make a terrific introduction for listeners new to Italian madrigals just before the dawning of the Baroque and should also be of interest to those who are already fans of music of the era. The sound quality is very fine -- clean and clear -- with a warmly intimate ambience.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Non si levav'ancor l'alba novella, madrigal in 2 sections for 5 voices (from Book 2), SV 40|
Mentre io miravo fiso de la mia donna, gl'occh' ardenti e e belli, madrigal for 5 voices (from Book 2), SV 50