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Hyperion Records

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Flora (1559, detail) by Jan Massys (1509-1575)
Private Collection / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA68019
Recording details: March 2013
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Adrian Peacock
Engineered by David Hinitt & Robert Cammidge
Release date: February 2014
Total duration: 8 minutes 13 seconds

'The latest disc from Jonathan Cohen’s virtuoso ensemble Arcangelo is a musical love story, complete with lovers’ quarrel, tearful partings and tragic endings. Bringing together the Sestinas from Books 6-8 of Monteverdi’s madrigals, the programme explores the gamut of the composer’s mature style, evolving from the crystallised 'prima prattica' perfection of Book 6 to the 'genere concitato' (agitated style) of Book 8. All of Cohen’s singers come from the world of opera, and it shows in performances that place the drama of 'le parole' to the fore. The astonishing harmonic flexibility and melodic narrative of Monteverdi’s writing translates here into urgent drama … among so much vocal athleticism, it’s still the instrumentalists of the ensemble that dominate, setting the disc apart from the excellent I Fagiolini recordings that come closest vocally to this kind of abandon. Sitting midway between the nervous energy of Alessandrini’s Concerto Italiano and the more measured intensity of Jordi Savall for the Book 8 works, Arcangelo’s musicians deploy rough-edged expressive risk-taking within a framework of complete stylistic control' (Gramophone) » More

'These are not easy pieces, but the opening ballet swings along with panache, and there is some excellent tenor solo singing in the first section … the two sopranos in the duet Ohimè, dov'è il mio ben show poise and taste' (BBC Music Magazine) » More

'This is a wonderful disc, presenting Monteverdi the dramatist and the creator of vivid aural pictures. Presented in such vivid recorded sound and by such accomplished musicians, intuitively directed by the excellent Jonathan Cohen, it provides an invaluable and hugely attractive addition to the composer’s already generous representation on disc' (International Record Review) » More

Or che 'l ciel e la terra e 'l vento tace, SV147
Madrigals, Book 8, published in 1638
author of text

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Having devised the genere concitato, Monteverdi went on to employ it in other works. His large-scale setting for six voices, two violins and continuo of Petrarch’s sonnet Or che ’l ciel e la terra e ’l vento tace begins with a magical portrayal of the stillness of night in the midst of which a lover cries out, tormented by thoughts of his beloved. The words ‘guerra è il mio stato’ provide Monteverdi with the cue to begin two passages of concitato writing, with rapid semiquavers in the violins and pacing motifs in the voices. The ‘war’ here is, of course, psychological, and Or che ’l ciel, like all the ‘warlike’ madrigals, is as much about love as the ‘amorous’ madrigals in the second part of Book 8. Its finest moment occurs at the end of the setting, where Monteverdi sets the words ‘tanto dalla salute mia son lunge’ (‘so far from my usual well-being am I’) in which the high voices and violins of the full ensemble, beginning low in pitch, and the male voices beginning high, move gradually across each other to the other extremes of their registers in a spine-tingling passage that memorably demonstrates the genius of Monteverdi’s invention.

from notes by John Whenham © 2014

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