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This review is from: Heaven and Earth (Audio CD)
This is the third release from Robert King's new Vivat label, following I Was Glad - Sacred Music of Stanford and Parry and Couperin's Trois Leçons de Ténèbres. We're gradually moving back in time with each successive recording, and now we've reached the early 1600s, to join Monteverdi at the court of the Gonzaga in Mantua and later in Venice. The King's Consort are augmented by long-time collaborators including Carolyn Sampson, Rebecca Outram and James Gilchrist, some of the same team who produced the acclaimed series for Hyperion Monteverdi: The Sacred Music.
Monteverdi was very much in the vanguard in his methods of expressing the sweet pains of love, and his techniques were not appreciated by everyone. The Bolognese composer Artusi was most definitely not a fan. Apart from the insufficiently prepared dissonances, he was offended by the singers' responses to the music, the way they would 'roll their eyes, twist their shoulders, let themselves go as if they wished to die...' The booklet goes into some detail to put these pieces into context, and it might be hard for us now to appreciate just how radical some of these new sounds were. Certainly in the performances here they sound wonderfully rich but bright (the pitch is A-440) and the acoustic of St Jude-on-the-Hill of course affords impressive detail.
Heaven and Earth is essentially a luxurious sampler; excerpts from the books of Madrigals are interspersed with favourite arias from the operas in a highly enjoyable disc, the excuse for which is to examine (and wallow in) Monteverdi's development of the theme of love's exquisite torments. With such glorious singing and playing as this though, no excuses are really required. Heaven on Earth.