In recording all of Claudio Monteverdi's nine publications of madrigals, "Delitiae Musicae" has thrown itself up against formidable competition, particularly from two other Italian ensembles, "Concerto Italiano" and "La Venexiana", as well as the older performances of the English "Consort of Musick" with Emma Kirkby. I've already reviewed DM's Book 1, heaping praise on it, and Book 3, which I didn't like much. In order to be as fair as possible to this fresh ensemble, I've just spent over an hour matching this CD of Book 2 track-for-track against the recording by Concerto Italiano.
Delitiae Musicae's claim to distinction is that it's an all-male ensemble, with falsettists singing the superius and altus parts. There's no question that the difference can be heard; in fact, the difference in affect is broader than I would have expected, since the women singers of Concerto Italiano employ a very 'white' vocal timbre, as clear as any countertenor's. But part of the difference is attributable to DM's rather 'boyish' energy and exuberance in interpretation. Honestly, I prefer the suave restraint of Concerto Italiano -- the emphasis on modulation and effortlessness -- but then the "guys" etch some of the Monteverdian rhythms, the syncopations and sesquialteras, very brilliantly in acoustic space-time. It might come to how the listener envisions a courtly madrigal-session in 16th C Mantua or Ferrara, as an occasion of silky sophistication or as just a tad Falstaffian.
If you need only one set of Monteverdi madrigals, and you want "the best", my recommendation would go to Concerto Italiano or La Venexiana. I've never been able to decide which of those two I prefer as a whole. But Delitiae Musicae offers an amusing alternative, especially for the early Books.