Consort of Musicke / Anthony Rooley

Monteverdi: Madrigali erotici

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Anthony Rooley's 1982 album of Monteverdi madrigals sung and played by the Consort of Musicke is both an appealing set of performances of some of the composer's most beguiling works and a handy snapshot of early Baroque performance practice as it was understood at the time. The authentic performance practice movement was still in its early stages, and a fuller picture of authenticity has evolved since then. These performances are relatively strict rhythmically, in reaction to the earlier, uninformed practice of performing Baroque music with Romantic notions of expressiveness. More recently, performers have rediscovered and reapplied Monteverdi's notion of sprezzatura, (studied carelessness) regarding the rhythm, in order to approximate the natural flexibility of speech. While this recording may not have the rhythmic fluidity of the most expressive Monteverdi performances, it's far from rigid, and there is much to savor in the singers' gorgeously pure tone, vocal blend, coloratura technique, and ability to invest the madrigals with a strong sense of drama, as well as in the instrumental ensemble's full partnership in the high level of music-making. Each of the singers is beyond reproach, both vocally and interpretively, but soprano Emma Kirkby and bass David Thomas are particularly dazzling. Decca's sound is clean, warm, and present.

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