Very nice stuff indeed!
Steven Guy | Croydon, South Australia | 07/12/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This wonderful complete recording of Monteverdi's Selva Morale deserves a place in your CD collection!
I approached this recording with some caution - I was less impressed with the Cantus Cölln / Concerto Palatino recording of Schütz' Psalmen Davids - which I felt was a little lifeless. I was, however, overjoyed by this new recording. The singing, playing and interpretations are superb throughout this collection.I have found that I enjoy listening to a few tracks from this recording as much as I enjoy playing the entire collection (you've got to have some time up your sleave for this!).If you love Monteverdi and, let's face it, who doesn't?! - then this excellent and exciting recording is for you!"
A pillar of western music
David Douglass | Bloomingdale, NJ | 01/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Here's a piece of music that you can place beside Bach's B Minor Mass. Each composer strives to reveal God through his music. Bach shows us God the almighty. Monteverdi shows us that God is pure love, resulting in a far more intimate and warm musical experience.
This performance is superb."
At the Foot of Mount Olympus, Gazing Up
Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 10/21/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For once I'm daunted by the task of reviewing this stunning performance of one of the greatest monuments of music. I'm tempted just to say BUY IT AND LIVE! But I'll try to gather my thoughts, after having listened to the 3-CD set several times with increasing admiration.
Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) began to prepare his "soul" for death around 1630, gradually turning over his duties at St. Mark's to his students. It was the proper thing to do for a man his age in that age of ever-present mortality. The plague had taken 50,000 victims in Venice that winter. Monteverdi's musical productivity was on the wane. In 1632, he took holy orders as a priest, again a common step for a man confronting the final judgment.
But then, over the next decade-plus, Monteverdi produced two of the greatest operas of all time, his Ottavo Libro of madrigals, and the compendium of his vocal music that he titled Selva Morale e Spirituale - The Moral and Spiritual Forest. The dates of composition of the 37 pieces in the collection are mostly unknown; certainly some of them were from earlier stages of his life, and some were sparklingly new. Monteverdi always retained the option to write in the "first practice" style of Renaissance polyphony one day, and the "second practice" of Baroque basso continuo the next. Selva was not intended to be performed as a unified, sequential program of music. Four-hour concert programs were not yet in fashion in 1641, when Selva was published. The pieces are in fact quite miscellaneous. Konrad Junghaenal has addressed this problem by re-ordered the items of Selva into three concerts - 3 CDs. The first and third CDs are ordered as Vespers services, using roughly the liturgical order of the great and famous Vespers of 1610. The middle CD includes "everything else" but it also has a concert-worthy unity of affect.
Junghaenel has grouped the most 'morally serious' liturgical statements on his first Vespers program, and the most exuberant celebratory pieces, many in the triple-time ritornello style, on the second set, beginning with the "Gloria a 7," probably the most familiar piece from the whole Selva Morale e Spirituale. Both of these 'reconstructed' Vespers are magnificent as such, ending of course with 'magnificats.' Magnificat anima mea musicam magistri monteverdi! Like the Vespers of 1610, these settings of antiphons and psalms are highly varied in structure, voicing, and instrumentation, from a tenor solo with two violins obbligato (Sanctorum meritis primo) to an eight-voice concertato with two violins and four trombones plus continuo (Dixit Dominus primo). The trombones are those of Concerto Palatino; the cornettos of that incomparable wind band - Bruce Dickey and Doron Sherwin - get their licks at other pieces.
The madrigals recorded on the second CD are not all explicitly sacred texts. They are the "moral" items of the Selva Morale, setting poems by Petrarch and others that suggest the vanity of earthly love and pleasure... in lovely pleasurable tones, of course. This CD also includes the only four-voice polyphonic mass that has survived of the many that Monteverdi may have composed. The Mass is pure 16th C polyphony, reminiscent of Lasso or Gombert. It has also been recorded by The Sixteen, under Harry Christophers, a performance I've already reviewed. The two performances are strikingly different, and both excellent. Junghaenel's version is more Baroque and operatic in affect.
Portions of the Selva have been recorded by other ensembles, notably the brilliant performance on one CD, by William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, of many of the liveliest pieces in the collection. This performance by Cantus Coelln and Concerto Palatino is the only complete Selva. Completeness wouldn't be much of a recommendation if the performance were not rich and satisfying, but it is! The twelve vocal soloists are all at their technical and interpretive peaks, even including soprano Johanna Koslowsky, whose voice I have found cold on other recordings. Here she sings like an angel by Raffaelo. The violins, viola, violone, and gamba spread their obbligato embellishments like gilded haloes around the singers' voices. The trombones - narrow-bore instruments sometimes called sackbutts - have the clear, voice-like timbre that this music requires, rather than the blaring obtrusiveness of later-period horns. Altogether this is probably Junghaenel's finest performance, in which he has considered and lovingly shaped every detail. Why, he must adore Monteverdi almost as much as I do!"