For those into Monteverdi and his students, second to none
Baroque and opera freak | Hong Kong | 01/15/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The price of this disk demonstrates rather evidently that its producers know they don't have to rely on things like Amazon reviews to sell this sort of "multi-super-star" product, but it is a bit surprising that such a truly special recording has so far failed to draw any serious reviews on the revered pages of Amazon.com. Readers who know even any two of the eleven incredible singers who are featured on the recording, not to mention the director and harpsichordist Emmanuelle Haim herself, will realize that this has to be a pretty special recording. Certainly, if you are going to make a single CD with eleven superstar singers delivering new-and-original performances of extraordinarily powerful -- but in many cases not-much-recorded -- arias, you have to have some sort of theme to tie the whole thing together, and here it is not only the "Lamenti" tradition initiated principally by Monteverdi, but also the whole Monteverdi style, developed out of madrigals but really quite different than the madrigal in structure and sentiment. All of the cuts on this recording are extraordinary, but if you want me to name a few favourites, there is no doubt that -- among a long stretch of unforgettable performances -- the numbers by Patricia Ciofi and my fellow Canadian Marie-Nicole Lemieux are particularly powerful, particularly immortal, though if this sentence did not end with Rolando Villazon it would not be complete. Rarely have I found a disk that has such a variety of singers or styles but holds together as well as this one. If one must situate it in terms of "purpose" in the spectrum of recent great baroque vocal recordings, one would have to say that it is ideally suited either (1) to introduce relative newcomers to this incredible repertoire to its top historical composers and top contemporary interpreters, or (2) to give mature connosseurs of this repertoire a rare one-hour-plus overview of the incredible range of emotions and voice styles that the "Lamenti" style has contributed to human culture since the early 16th century. Those who do not like Monteverdi will probably not like this disk; it is much more contemplative and serious than the dramatic stage-music of great baroque composers like Vivaldi and Handel. But for anyone who wants to plumb the origins of the Baroque style and discover how the Renaissance still managed to keep itself alive in the Baroque, it is an indispensible disk that truly marks out a distinctive place for itself in the vast existing discography. In ten years will it be remembered? Well, if it touches you on the deeper level three times or more, it will, and when that time comes, you and I will look at one another with a profound nod of recognition, even if separated by a hemisphere of distance or a half-century of years. The Baroque spirit has never died and it never will. Here we are close to its core."