Monteverdi is celebrated for bringing opera to birth, but his extraordinary creativity also saw the gradual dissolving of the stylistic boundaries between sacred and secular music. Here we have a pleasantly varied sample of Monteverdi’s secular music, drawn from the later books of madrigals and some well known operatic items. Two of the items, the arresting Toccata from Orfeo and the vivacious Chiome d’oro from the Seventh Book of Madrigals, were ‘recycled’ as sacred pieces.
One of the themes running through this selection is, as the booklet note puts it, “the sweet pains of love”. The most intense expressions of painful love are found in three laments. Lasciatemi morire, the only surviving music from the opera Arianna, was reworked as a five-part madrigal in which Arianna’s pain is intensified by some wonderful dissonances. A Dio, Roma from The Coronation of Poppea is movingly sung by Sarah Connolly while Lamento della Ninfa (one of the first laments over a descending bass) moves and impresses by gaining maximum impact from so little material.
Charles Daniels sings Possente spirito, the famous tour de force from Orfeo with great agility and empathy, expertly accompanied by a phalanx of cornetts. The prologue from Orfeo makes an impressive curtain-raiser while the program concludes with the impressive Hor che ’ l ciel, e la terra from the Eighth Book of Madrigals. These fine performances do more than hint at a divine dimension to those aforementioned pains.