This is a great set. The main competition to this production comes from Gardiner, with Anthony Rolfe Johnson as Orfeo. His is a superbly attractive voice, and he remains the best Orfeo I've heard. But Victor Torres is excellent too and his performance is very distinctive and rich in character. What's more, he is better recorded, as is the whole of Garrido's interpretation…”
This is one of the best of the contemporary recordings of the Vespers, with an 'Italian' sound which is far more appropriate to the music than its 'Northern' competitors. It captures some of the ecstatic quality of the music, but is no match for the old Corboz Erato recording (reissued on CD and perhaps still available) with Tappy and Cuenod, which, in spite of its faults, is in a league of its own in this music.
Claudio Monteverdi's Seventh Book of Madrigals, written in 1619, was really the first that was fully part of the new operatic age – and really the first to consist of pieces that were not really madrigals at all. For all of the soloistic and operatic expressive devices, for all the block chords that had appeared in the previous few books, this was the first set in which Monteverdi dispensed with the traditional five-voice texture of the madrigal.
Claudio Monteverdi's late works, like those of Beethoven, contain singular mixtures of simplicity and complexity. Book Eight of his madrigals are about love and war, themes as elemental as they come. Yet consider the madrigal Ogni amante è guerrier (Every Lover is a Warrior, track 6 on the first CD of this set), with its text by Ottavio Rinuccini that subtly conflates the two ideas. Monteverdi's setting, for a low voice, is moody, involved, and philosophical.
With the release of Monteverdi's Fifth Book of Madrigals, La Venexiana, the extraordinary ensemble founded and led by countertenor Claudio Cavina, comes close to completing its cycle of Monteverdi's nine volumes for Glossa, with only the first and last books left to record. The Fifth Book, published just before Monteverdi wrote Orfeo, is a pivotal collection that incorporates conventions both of Renaissance madrigals and of the emerging Baroque. La Venexiana's performance is notable for its musical and emotional intensity.