MONTEVERDI: Arie e Lamenti; Madrigali Guerrieriet Amorosi – Montserrat Figueras, sop./ Ton Koopman, harpsichord & organ/ Andrew Lawrence-King, harp/ La Capella Reial de Catalunya/ Jordi Savall – Alia Vox Heritage

by | Dec 31, 2011 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

MONTEVERDI: Arie e Lamenti; Madrigali Guerrieriet Amorosi – Montserrat Figueras, soprano/ Ton Koopman, harpsichord and organ/ Andrew Lawrence-King, harp/ Rolf Lislevand, theorbo/ La Capella Reial de  Catalunya/ Jordi Savall, director – Alia Vox Heritage multichannel SACD (2 discs) 9884 A+B, 118:02 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:
These are two re-releases nicely packaged from 1989 (Arie) and 1994 (Madrigali) respectively. Alia Vox’s seemingly endless catalog is being rather rapidly recirculated in superb-sounding recordings remastered into Super Audio and collected in absolutely first-rate booklets with their usual excellent and informative notes, all in glossy pages with color photos of course. There isn’t a one that I can think of that is not deservedly being put back into circulation, and all are worthy of inclusion in any half-serious collector’s shelves.
The first disc, Arie e Lamenti is no single work by the composer but instead a collection of pieces taken from a wide variety of sources specifically designed in this instance to showcase the talent of Jordi Savall’s late wife, Montserrat Figueras, who at this point possessed the perfect instrument for these simultaneously plaintive and passionate pieces. Her voice has rarely been heard to such extraordinary effect; wide ranging, vocally secure, and fluid almost to a fault, her performances stand here as some of the best of her long career, and I would not want to be without this disc.
The Madrigals of War and Love comprise the eighth and most distinctive of Monteverdi’s madrigal books, essentially exploding the genre itself and sounding its death knell, from the once-dominant five-part pieces to compositions that border on opera and ballet, barely contained considering the bulging textual declarations and phenomenal musical sprawl that the composer’s ever-expanding invention created. This is in effect the summit of the Monteverdian corpus—madrigals were never to get this good again, and as Bach closed out the baroque by exhausting the forms and structures he worked with, so Monteverdi shut down the Renaissance as well, leading to more expanded forms of opera and cantatas.
This performance is about as good as you are going to hear, and the Super Audio sound does not sound manufactured but mint; audiophiles will have few issues with this. The two discs taken together represent a high point in Alia Vox’s catalog and should not be missed.
—Steven Ritter

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