Monteverdi: Madrigali

Floral design

Les arts florissants, Paul Agnew
208:27 (3 CDs in a card box)
harmonia mundi HMX 2903777.79
CD1: Selections from books 1-3; CD2: ditto Books 4-6; CD3: ditto Books 7 & 8

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his is a robustly packaged bringing-together of LAF’s three CDs of madrigals sampling Books 1-8. Individual discs have strong cardboard sleeves, there is a chunky booklet including thoughtful and comprehensive essays (Eng/Fre) with sung Italian texts and translations (also Eng/Fre), and the outer box is more solid than many. Vocal and instrumental ensembles are directed by Paul Agnew.

In recent years Italian groups have given us passionate, word-driven performances of this repertoire. I think that these LAF performances find a way to balance those series of micro-dramas with a sense of the bigger picture. I’m not saying that this is how to do it. With such amazing music there can be no one way. But this is a fine tribute to a great composer that will not disappoint, even if it sometimes irritates. Why on earth are there recorders in Chiome d’oro (Book 7)?

Brian Clark

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