John Eliot Gardiner’s recording was made live at the Göttingen Festival in 1988 … the exhilaration and intensity of the performance come over vividly, with superb singing from both chorus and an almost ideal line-up of soloists … as for the Monteverdi Choir, their clarity, incisiveness and beauty are a constant delight.(Penguin Guide)
Sara Mingardo has been creating quite a stir in baroque circles but this is my first chance to catch up with her. In one sense she may be considered a "typical" baroque singer, in the sense that she uses a completely straight vocal production, from which vibrato has been rigorously excluded, and cultivates a somewhat plangent, nasal sound, with the result that a casual listener might suppose he was listening to a counter-tenor.
Monteverdi's larger choral pieces are so masterly that they tend to overshadow his chamber scale sacred music the solo works in particular. Occasionally one or two of these exquisite motets will appear on a collection such as Paul McCreesh's Venetian Vespers, but rarely do they become the focus of an entire recording as they are here. The much-admired early-music diva Maria Cristina Kiehr has a slightly constricted quality to her voice that won't appeal to everyone, but her very narrow vibrato colors her sound without affecting her accuracy of pitch, spotless coloratura, or blend with period instruments (played beautifully here by Concerto Soave).