Les Arts Florissants
Miriam ALLAN, soprano - Libri VII & VIII
Mhairi LAWSON, soprano - Libro VII
Hannah MORRISON, soprano - Libro VIII
Lucile RICHARDOT, contralto - Libri VII & VIII
Paul AGNEW, tenor - Libri VII & VIII
Zachary WILDER, tenor - Libro VII
Sean CLAYTON, tenor - Libro VIII
Lisandro ABADIE, bass - Libri VII & VIII
Cyril COSTANZO, bass - Libro VIII
The last stage in our journey to the heart of Monteverdi’s madrigals
"This recording is the completion of our series dedicated to the madrigals of Monteverdi. Monteverdi was born in the autumn of the Renaissance and died when the Baroque period, as it came to be known, was already well established. He witnessed and was in part responsible for an extraordinary transformation in musical composition from the sonorous polyphony of the Ars Perfecta to the birth of modern dramatic music. On this recording we hear a selection of the music he published during the final period of his life in that most theatrical of cities, Venice.
Monteverdi had been dismissed from Mantua in 1612 following the death of Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga and the accession of his son, Prince Francesco. After a year spent as an independent musician based again in the city of his birth, Cremona, he was appointed maestro di cappella of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice. This was not merely a geographical change for Monteverdi; Venice implied a wholesale change in style. In Mantua he had composed to the command of the Gonzaga family; in Venice he would need to appeal to a fickle and fast developing public taste.
Choosing an hour of music to represent these two massive collections is a challenge. I have tried to select lesserknown works along with the better-known ones, and to include at least one example of each of the extraordinary variety of new forms that Monteverdi presents in these books. The recordings were made live during our concerts at the Cité de la Musique in Paris and later ‘patched’ to remove extraneous noises and repair inevitable accidents. The ‘live’ atmosphere of these recordings is an essential element of the result for me. Although this clearly precludes the sort of perfection that can be achieved by many hours in the studio, it maintains the urgency of communication that seems to me essential to Monteverdi’s music. It is this urgency that we have experienced throughout all the eight books published in Monteverdi’s lifetime (we will not include the Ninth Book published posthumously, as it seemed to me contrary to our idea of following the composer’s development throughout his lifetime); Monteverdi’s own urgency to communicate this new dramatic style, from his ambitions as a young man in Cremona, through the search for new harmonic and melodic idioms in Mantua, to the towering achievement of the Seventh and Eighth book in Venice, along with the operas and the church music.
Our performance is unrepentantly ‘live’ in atmosphere. Monteverdi was in search of the breathless excitement of the protagonists’ conflict, accompanied by the violence of the sounds made by the instruments and voices alike. These sounds were never destined to be pretty or refined, because what they imitated was ugly and violent. Like all the music we have made during this extraordinary project, our aim was to convince the listener not only of the beauty of this repertoire but of its astonishing modernity. It is music that breaks the bounds of the highly regulated polyphony that gave it birth, but exists equally before further rules and habits codified the Italian Baroque a few decades later. Monteverdi’s music attempts to marry text and harmony so closely that we are capable of seeing into the protagonists’ hearts, of feeling their state of emotion viscerally whilst hearing their words. This is the fundamental truth of Baroque music and I pay tribute to the wonderful singers and instrumentalist who have taken part in our five-year journey and thank them for all that they have taught me."