Monteverdi: L’Orfeo

Le Concert des Nations, La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Jordi Savall
109:06 (2 CDs in a card triptych)
Château de Versailles Spectacles CVS080

This series of recordings, made in conjunction with live concerts at the Palace of Versailles, presents exciting new artists an revisits memorable milestones of authentic performance – the present recording belongs to the latter category. Jordi Savall’s presentations of Orfeo in the early 2000s with the principal role played by Furio Zanasi and the role of Musica unforgettably taken by Savall’s late wife, Montserrat Figueras, are remembered fondly by all of us lucky enough to see a live performance, and it was transferred very successfully to CD. This time the role of Orfeo is taken by Marc Mauillon, and like Zanasi before, he combines a stunning technique with a believable dramatic presence. It is good to hear the famous virtuoso aria “Possente spirto” sung with such complete technical assurance, but also with bravura – perhaps not since the legendary account by Nigel Rogers have we heard so many of the incidental notes in exactly the right places, and indeed Mauillon’s voice is reminiscent of Rogers’ distinctive timbre. Here and elsewhere in the opera, Mauillon succeeds in articulating the eye-watering degree of ornamentation without allowing it to interfere with the dramatic sweep of the music. This is a remarkable account of this extremely demanding role! The clearly generous budget of the Versailles concerts allows musical directors to indulge themselves, and Savall fields a lavish instrumental team, probably many times larger than anything Monteverdi could have mustered but providing a superb range of textures, and en masse a rich and impressive sound. This is matched by a capable and splendid vocal chorus, while an equally impressive line-up of other soloists animates the multiple distinctive solo roles. Savall’s earlier productions featured him sweeping down through the audience to his instrumental ensemble for the overture clad in a Magus’s cloak, and he has lost none of the old magic in what is much more than a revival of his earlier account of Monteverdi’s masterpiece. He has brought a lifetime of experience to bear on this remarkable piece, and has mustered an ensemble of all the talents to allow him to realise his vision. A final virtue of the Versailles Concerts CDs is their lavish presentation, and this release is no exception with a richly illustrated booklet including an intriguing essay by Jean-François Lattarico and background details about all the participants.

D. James Ross

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Discover more from early music review

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading