Classical reviews: Monteverdi and various lullaby composers

Michael Church
·1-min read
Monteverdi’s madrigals performed by Concerto Italiano are musical settings of Renaissance Italian poetry (Rex Features)
Monteverdi’s madrigals performed by Concerto Italiano are musical settings of Renaissance Italian poetry (Rex Features)

Monteverdi: Il Terzo Libro de Madrigali

Concerto Italiano, directed by Rinaldo Alessandrini

Naïve OP 30580

★★★★★

These madrigals are musical settings of Renaissance Italian poetry, and they are miniature miracles. And I can’t imagine them ever being more beautifully sung. Under their inspired director Rinaldo Alessandrini, Concerto Italiano have been engaged for decades in a quest for the ideal way to deliver them, and Alessandrini spells out the challenge. “Monteverdi urges us to let the text live almost word by word,” he writes. These words reflect every aspect of love in all its forms, whether ecstatic or tortured; the musical lines interlace with extraordinary power and grace. Monteverdi wanted this music to reflect theatricality, truth, and humanity, and Alessandrini’s singers brilliantly honour that wish.

Good Night!

Bertrand Chamayou, piano

Erato 0190295242435

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

It’s been done before, but never so engagingly: a string of lullabies from a string of composers. This French pianist is better known for his virtuosic performances of Liszt, but he brings a heartfelt sincerity to these examples of a modest domestic genre. He describes himself as a night owl who treasures what he calls the borderland between wakefulness and sleep and regards the cradle song as a key musical form. Here we find the usual suspects, led inevitably by Chopin’s ineffably beautiful “Berceuse” but including contributions from unexpected figures as well as Brahms, Liszt, Janacek, and Grieg. I pity any child whose slumbers are supposed to follow Lachenmann’s spikily modernist effusion, but it’s nice to encounter lullabies by Villa-Lobos, Balakirev, and Busoni.

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