Monday, May 15, 2017

Monteverdi – Madrigals – Leonhardt



   Claudio Monteverdi was born in Cremona, traditional musical centre of Northern Italy. In 16th century newborn children were baptized as soon as possible, so his baptism day, May 15th, 1567 is widely recognized as a date of his birth. He was composer of two eras, starting his career in late Renaissance style and continuing his work in early Baroque. And it’s hard to overestimate role Monteverdi played as creator of new musical idioms and establishing new forms. He was one of first composers who were developing the idea of opera as combined music, poetry, dance and theatre, and the first one who wrote opera L’Orfeo being regularly played. His late works Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (1641) and L'incoronazione di Poppea (1642) remain in common repertoire giving him position of first composer with significant position in the history of opera. These two works, written by composer in his seventies, are considered as his crowning achievements. He died in Venice in 1643.
   Crucial moment in his artistic career was publishing in 1605 his fifth book of madrigals Il quinto libro de madrigali a cinque voci, where he switched main style of musical composition. He resigned of earlier rules of polyphony with strict counterpoint and equity of voices – which he called prima practica. In place of these he used counterpoint more freely with hierarchic voices. These features help him create music with more dramatic emotional shape. In next four books of Madrigals Monteverdi established foundations for the new style. Every book gave new solutions to the problem of relation between lyrics and musical form. Choices of works from Monteverdi’s Libri are common part of musical life, what can be observed in concert programs and record catalogues.

Claudio Monteverdi – Madrigale – Gustav Leonhardt (1979)

   Among many productions some are really significant. Meaningful moment in performing and recording Monteverdi’s music was change from romantic visions of ancient music to historically informed and methodically conscious interpretations. One early examples of such attitude is album called Madrigals (Madrigale in German) published in 1980 under SEON/RCA label. This is one of late issues in catalogue of SEON label, which in 1978 moved from Phonogram to RCA. Recording sessions took place in Haarlem (Holland, Netherlands) in September 1979. Performers were Dutch singers Marjanne Kweksilber (soprano), Marius van Altena (tenor), Michiel ten Houte de Lange (tenor) and Floris Rommerts (bass) and great countertenor from Belgium, René Jacobs. Artistic director was Gustav Leonhardt, who played harpsichord and conducted the ensemble.
   Program of this album was composed with carefully selected madrigals from Monteverdi’s last four books of madrigals. First position of this anthology is four-part Lamento d’Arianna (Libro 6). Second dominant of the programm is three-part Lamento della Ninfa (Libro 8).  Madrigals are often versions of opera arias and duets. Opening second side madrigal Bel pastor (Libro 9) is dramatic scene for two voices where shepherd is seducing shepherdess. This madrigal written to the text by Ottavio Rinuccini was probably a scene from one of lost pastoral operas. Such procedures were normal behavior not only in 17th century. Whole program of 15 madrigals shows also some stylistic dependencies towards earlier style. Monteverdi was using various stylistic means, sometimes even facing to older manners just to give his oeuvres most lucid, credible shape. Such perspective was also shown in collection set by Gustav Leonhardt bringing a lot of musical experience and some further evidences of composer’s greatness.

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