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A Prince amongst composers

Monteverdi and the voice of Maria Cristina Kiehr

CD Review
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Monteverdi - Pianto della Madonna. Maria Cristina Kiehr. Copyright (c) 1999 harmonia mundiNo recording in recent years has brought home to me the sensitivity, joy and pathos of Monteverdi's solo voice motets as this featuring the exquisite voice of Maria Cristina Kiehr.

If the average, musically-balanced reader of these words takes note of anything by Monteverdi, it is probably the Vespers of 1610 and therefore the categorization slips into the mind as 'chorus'. As this CD embarks on a course of correction to the bias, we discover Monteverdi's adventurous spirit with music for a solo voice: listen to this opening of O quam pulchra es. (Click for music.) Music and voice perfectly match, and for me there is a tingle of joy for this marriage.

Sacred music at that time in Italy was predominately for a cappella voices, so the attraction of a pliable form of solo motet, lending itself to decorative vocal lines and expressive harmony was natural to a composer of Monteverdi's outlook. A brief extract from Exulta, Filia Sion brings the joyful vitality that reflects the mix of sacred and secular styles and ornamentation that intensifies the exhilaration. (Click for music.)

For our sheer adulation of Monteverdi's powers, and his readiness to grasp at opportunities, the track that lends its name to this record is a powerful lament, deep in penetration of our emotions as the Virgin Mary grieves the death of her son. Yet Monteverdi composed it earlier within an opera for Ariadne to lament her abandonment by Theseus. Depths of human despair induce the same traumas. (Click for music.)

The instrumental tracks here include organ pieces by Marini, possibly a pupil of Monteverdi, and Merulo, dubbed 'the Prince of Organists', maybe for his five keyboard collections and a predilection for alchemy. Concerto Soave, an impeccable ensemble throughout, reminds us yet again of the amazing development of early music scholarship throughout our century, and the skill and understanding of so many specialist performers.

Copyright © Basil Ramsey, July 31st 1999


Monteverdi Pianto della Madonna


Maria Cristina Kiehr
Concerto Soave
Jean-Marc Aymes, conductor

harmonia mundi HMC 901680          DDD          62'47

Copyright © 1999 harmonia mundi s.a.


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