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Briefly Noted: No. 9, No. 9, No. 9...

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Monteverdi, Madrigals, Book 9 / Scherzi Musicali, Delitiæ Musicæ, M. Longhini

(released on March 8, 2019)
Naxos 8.555318 | 74'37"
We noted the first part of Marco Longhini's complete recording of the madrigals of Claudio Monteverdi over a decade ago. That project has finally come to its conclusion with this final volume, recorded in 2006 but oddly only made available now. Longhini's cycle is unusual in that he leads an all-male vocal ensemble, with excellent support from a small consort of instruments. The results may not be perfect musically, but the effect is quite charming to the ear.

Longhini's edition of these last madrigals, as well as the sometimes madrigal-like "jests" of the collection called Scherzi musicali, thus had to accommodate the range of male voices. Countertenor Alessandro Carmignani has to reach to the top of his range (at least up to E, for example in Bel pastor, or Handsome Shepherd, whose fair eyes) and bass Walter Testolin down to the basement of his. All six men are versatile and skilled in adding daring ornaments to their lines, including in elaborate scales.

In a way, given the masculine viewpoint in the texts of these pieces, even when written in a woman's voice, the all-male voicing seems apt. The instrumental playing is, if anything, even better, starting with a sinfonia by Biagio Marini that opens the disc. Two violins are including not that frequently, but the continuo realization, divided among harpsichord, organ, theorbo, and Baroque guitar, adds considerable variety. Longhini's direction focuses on rhythmic vivacity and clarity of polyphonic imitation, making for many dancing delights.

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