Clorinda e Tancredi: Claudio Monteverdi

Francesca Lombardi Mazzulli soprano, Luca Dordolo tenor, Cantar Lontano, Marco Mencobani
69:56
Glossa GCD 923512

An unkind review of some years ago referred to the ‘tweedledum-tweedledee’ style of performance applied sometimes to Monteverdi, and I’m afraid the term sprang to mind when I was listening to this CD of Monteverdi’s madrigals. In his programme note, Pierre Mamou seems to suggest that the performers will be seeking the exaggerated and ugly beneath the beauty of Monteverdi’s music (I oversimplify), and I’m afraid for my part they succeed only too well. Monteverdi’s dramatic dialogues need careful handling to avoid triteness, and I’m afraid if you are going for a comic effect as the singers do here, the result soon becomes tiresome and ridiculous. There is some lovely singing, when the performers temporarily seem to forget their stated mission and engage in lyrical singing and delicate ornamentation, but soon the exaggerated expression returns and the effect is spoiled. The central work, The Battle of Tancredi and Clorinda, receives a more measured account, or perhaps the drama inherent in the work makes this mode of performance more acceptable. Luca Dordolo is an animated testo, while the instrumental forces are also effectively engaged in this powerful tale. Due to the enlightened Scottish Exam Board decision to include Il Combattimento  in the 1970s Higher Music syllabus, it was the first music by Monteverdi I ever came across. As a result, I am very familiar with the multitude of recordings which have been made of it since, and while this is not the best, it stands up rather well by comparison. I should point out there is a bonus track on the CD, a rather ‘contemporary’ realisation of a song by Giovanni Felice Sances, which would not sound out of place in a New York piano bar – perhaps this is where the performers have been longing to be all along…

D. James Ross

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