Monday, October 29, 2012

Monteverdi Monday – Rolando Villazón sings Sì dolce è 'l tormento da scherzo

Rolando singing Monteverdi?!? OMG, what are they thinking!?!?

This clip and the related discs remind me of those old Monteverdi recordings, back in the day, before "historically informed performance" practices became more widespread. And when singers didn't specialize quite so narrowly

I am thinking in particular of Raymond Leppard's recordings of all the books of Monteverdi madrigals (and L'Incornazione di Poppea) with solid but not period-specialist singers, including Sheila Armstrong, Heather Harper, Helen Watts, Ian Partridge, Robert Tear, Lillian Watson, and Luigi Alva. Here's a 1971 review of one of Leppard's Monteverdi releases. (Good luck finding those discs!)

Sì dolce è 'l tormento da scherzo

Emmanuelle Haim, with her ensemble Le Concert d' Astree, is in the HIP mode, but she has brought in a slew of non-specialists to apply their vocal and interpretive chops to this timeless music. Purists squawk and complain (it's fun to read the reviews of her Lamenti disc*) but there is some marvelous music making to be found here. Other singers include Natalie Dessay, Joyce DiDonato, Veronica Gens, Laurent Naouri and Philippe Jaroussky.

Bonus! Promo Video for the Lamenti disc.

Don't get me wrong, I love the HIP performances, but it's nice to hear another point of view now and then. After all, if those pioneers hadn't tried out Monteverdi in the early 20th century, we mightn't have anyone singing Monteverdi at all!

*Fun, but sometimes aggravating. Just now, I felt compelled to write a response to one narrow-minded review


  1. I remember back in the days of the LP--their glory days--Victoria de los Angeles made a disc of Renaissance music. My recollection was that it was fairly well received. She had worked with the instrumentalists before but de los Angeles had the ability to control vibrato--not that she ever sounded by Emma Kirkby thank God, but there was a purity coupled with restraint. I think a reviewer in he Gramophone said there was no reason that a beautiful voice could not sing this music, suggesting perhaps that most specialists at the time (60's) were not a well endowed vocally as a de los Angeles.

    I admit that I have tried to listen to Monteverdi but have never been able to get very far. The fault is mine, I admit, but keep trying--afterall there must be something there!

  2. I found that Leppard set at amazon. On CD or mp3. I also came across a disc of duets by Elizabeth Schwartzkopf and Irmgard Seefried that includes some Monteverdi. AND I foud (and downloaded) Nadia Boulanger's recording of a handful of madrigal (with piano continuo!!) she did in the early 1950's with a small group of French singers (including Hughes Cuenod). I need to look for the VdlA recording.

    1. oops. Boulanger recorded the Monteverdi selections in 1937.

    2. I owned the Schwarzkopf/Seefried LP and CD but I don't believe that the de los Angeles renaissance songs ever made it to CD. Schwarzkopf has some wry comments re her duet CD with Seefried in A Life on Record, the book she made with J. B. Stean. I owned both incarnations but rarely played it. The same goes for the de los Angeles LP--a completist for both singers.

      It's possible that the de los Angeles was reissued in Europe or Japan and is available through a dealer in the UK. At least with CD's you don't have to worry about compatibility!


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