Monteverdi: Madrigali Libri I & II

Le Nuove Musiche, Krijn Koetsveld
96:40 (2 CDs in a jewel case)
Brilliant Classics 94977

These CDs are part of a projected complete recording of all the Monteverdi madrigals – the ensemble has already released books III, VI, VII and VIII – and for this recording Le Nuove Musiche go back to Monteverdi’s prima prattica  roots in Cremona. Although perhaps less immediately recognizable than his later madrigals, these are extremely accomplished compositions, which must have raised a few musical eyebrows when they appeared in 1587 and 1590 respectively. In the slow sustained madrigals, Le Nuove Musiche produce a polished and well-balanced sound, although in some of the more hectic passages the intonation is not always all it might be and the upper voices in particular occasionally sound less than comfortable. Having said that, the recorded sound is very vivid and captures perfectly the warm acoustic of the Kapucijnenkloster in Velp, while the performances are consistently musical and intelligent. One of the fruits of Monteverdi 450 has been a plethora of performances and recordings of the master’s music, but Monteverdi is perhaps unusual in that, nowadays, there is very little of his music which has not regularly seen the light of day, and perhaps David Munrow already pointed an alternative way to celebrate his remarkable music by juxtaposing it with the less familiar music of his Italian contemporaries.

D. James Ross