Robert Hollingworth and I Fagiolini celebrated Monteverdi’s 450th-anniversary and their twenty-first in typically effervescent style.
Three five-part Madrigals opened, written between 1603 and 1605 during the composer’s time at the court of Mantua. ‘Cruda Amarilli’ stresses the bittersweet pain of love with dense vocal textures and sobbing embellishments, whereas ‘Sfogava con le stele’ has a lighter more-open feel, set for higher voices: the poet is looking up to the stars and sees the image of his beloved reflected. ‘Longe da te, cor mio’ followed, a beautiful miniature, echoing the torments of love and separation.
Monteverdi’s operas were showcased briefly with ‘Possente Sprito’, from Orfeo, tenor Matthew Long taking the title role and impressing with a lovely line and fine use of shakes and hockets to convey the dramatic narrative. The instrumental accompaniment could not have been more distinguished, violinists Rachel Podger and Kati Debretzeni playing with charm and finesse, alternating with echoing cornetts and harp. Two sensual Venetian duets from 1619 celebrated the lure of the beloved’s golden hair and the delights of kissing, the latter ‘Vorrei baciarti, o Filli’ playfully acted and teasingly sung by Hollingworth and Ciara Hendrick.
Roderick Williams appeared, not as a baritone, but as composer: a new working of ‘Là ci darem la mano’. The vocal clashes and descending lines have a melancholy hue: men and women interchanging lines, the text emphasising deception and manipulation: a bracing step into the complex world of the twenty-first-century love lyric, while paying homage to Monteverdi and Mozart.
Next a foray into Monteverdi’s magisterial settings of religious texts, ‘Laudate pueri Dominum’, a lilting, syncopated Psalm, full of joy. This sparkling and tantalising Vesper led to a pastoral close, ‘Volgendo il ciel per l’immortal sentiero’, dedicated to Ferdinand III. This hybrid piece – poetic recitative, instruments, chorus and dance – showed off the talents of I Fagiolini and brought Monteverdi’s music truly alive.
- Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 (available on BBC iPlayer for thirty days afterwards)
- BBC Proms www.bbc.co.uk/proms