Monteverdi was seventy-one when he published his Eighth Book of madrigals. This collection, a monumental work of remarkable beauty, is a synthesis of all Monteverdi's experience in the realm of secular music. It is the culmination of a genre, the Italian madrigal, which here achieves a rare state of perfection. INDISPENSABLE!
This innovative program pairing the seemingly antithetical compositions of Claudio Monteverdi and Astor Piazzolla was first featured at the Ambronay Festival in 2009 and was greeted with nearly universal acclaim. The brainchild of Argentine conductor Leonardo Garcia Alarcon and his ensemble Cappella Mediterranea, this unusual collection highlights the surprising connections and musical synergies present in works that are separated by centuries of time and thousands of miles.
This fiery performance of L'incoronazione di Poppea (referred to here as Il Nerone, the title used in Busenello's libretto) is driven by the resonant honesty of the characters' extreme and frequently volatile emotional states, which the soloists convey with singing of exceptional individuality, purity, and tonal beauty.
From the early 1630s onwards, Monteverdi had little by little become detached from his secular occupations – perhaps preparing to take his leave of earthly existence. But when he was already over 70 he set to work once more, publishing his eighth book of madrigals before offering the public a bulky collection of sacred works in the shape of the Selva morale e spirituale. Infinitely more ambitious than the comparable anthologies of his contemporaries, the work is here presented complete, enabling the listener to discover the whole range of Monteverdi’s output of sacred music, from madrigals and virtuoso solo motets to the most elaborate polyphony. In his preface evoking the multifarious “creatures” sheltered by this vast “moral and spiritual forest”, the father of Baroque music was merely emphasising the wonderful diversity of styles so characteristic of his wide-ranging genius.
Genius can be defined in a number of ways. One such definition is to be the right person in the right place at the right time; another is to have the capacity to move your audience to tears. Monteverdi meets both these criteria with flying colours. His professed ambition was to "move the passions of the soul," thereby drawing tears from his audience, and he achieved this with greater efficacy than any of his contemporaries. The use of the word "madrigal" on the title pages of his eight collections (and a posthumous Ninth Book from 1651) is therefore deceptive, concealing radical stylistic changes which brilliantly reflect the turbulent, exciting times in which he lived.