Central to this selection of Monteverdi works are pieces with texts by Petrarch (Or che 'l ciel, Zefiro torna, Ohimè il bel viso) and Tasso (the Combattimento and Ohimè dov'è il mio ben). The opening ballet (Volgendo il ciel, incorporating a 'Ciaccona' by Merula) gives a chance for Jonathan Cohen’s instrumental ensemble Arcangelo to take centre stage, and the Final Sestina brings everyone together in a long lament for the young and beautiful Caterina Martinelli, for whom the role of Arianna (1607) was written, but who died just before the first performance.
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 famous Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda is effective, but Clorinda lacks fierceness (in verse 10 for example), and all versions of this tend to be overshadowed by the extreme drama of the stunning recording by Rolando Villazón / Emmanuelle Haïm on Virgin Classics (2006). The two sopranos in the duet Ohimè, dov'è il mio ben show poise and taste, but the instrumental accompaniment is occasionally bass-heavy. Among the five-voiced madrigals the complex dissonances of Zefiro torna are managed well, but the ensemble in the Sestina (owing to a wobbly top voice) does not quite gel.