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.
There are more than one dozen recordings of Monteverdi's great masterpiece, the Vespers of 1610, a distinction reserved for very few works and composers from the late 16th and early 17th centuries. With this kind of attention, you'd think that this substantial work for choir, soloists, and instruments would be more easily accessible–but it is in fact a structurally complex and musically intricate compilation of hymns, antiphons, and psalms, concluding with a magnificent setting of the Magnificat. Most recordings can't seem to overcome the strategic and technical problems of presenting such a three-dimensional work on a recording. But this one is different: the music literally comes alive and grabs our attention. If you're in the market for Monteverdi's Vespers, look no further. This is the most dynamic, dramatic version on disc.
Back another two centuries, to 1640 and a late masterpiece by the first great figure in opera history: Claudio Monteverdi and his Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria – “The Return of Ulysses to his Homeland”. Raymond Leppard conducted a production at Glyndebourne in the early 1970s, based on his own edition of the textually problematic work – there are gaps in the only surviving score. Revived in 1979, the production – which has gone down in the annals of opera legend – was recorded by CBS. Gramophone’s reviewer declared the performance “gloriously vivid in humanity and splendour.
These seven discs recorded between 1995 and 2000 make up a fabulous anthology of early seventeenth-century Italian music. A large number of composers are gathered round the central figure of Claudio Monteverdi; while some of them, like Salomone Rossi, Biagio Marini and Dario Castello, are among the musicians with whom he worked in Mantua or Venice, others illustrate the extraordinary musical creativity of the period, whether it be Sigismondo d’India, Tarquinio Merula, Francesco Cavalli, Alessandro Grandi, or so many other lesser-known personalities, each of whom helped to build the rapidly growing edifice of Italian Baroque music.
This innovative programme, created at Ambronay Festival in 2009 by the Argentine Leonardo García Alarcón chief sees musicians alternate between baroque and modern instruments to interpret the most beautiful pages of Astor Piazzólla (Milonga del Angel, Ballada para un loco) and Claudio Monteverdi (Lamento della ninfa, Orfeo). During the extensive live tour of this project in 2009, members of the audience pointed out that in the end they didn't know where Monteverdi stopped and Piazzolla began.