Classical review: Dunedin Consort

Dunedin Consort celebrate Monteverdi's poems about the pursuit of love through the allegory of war. Picture: Facebook
Dunedin Consort celebrate Monteverdi's poems about the pursuit of love through the allegory of war. Picture: Facebook
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DESPITE being so well documented as a composer, and being recognised as such a seminal figure in the transition from Renaissance to Baroque, it is remarkable how certain pockets of work by Claudio Monteverdi are so little performed.

Dunedin Consort: Madrigals of Love and War - Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

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Last Sunday, the Dunedin Consort treated us to some of the late madrigals, many from the wonderful Eighth Book published in Venice five years before his death.

It was a small instrumental group under the keyboard supervision of artistic director John Butt, coupled with a quintet of voices, variably employed as a whole or in component parts, that delivered this universal assortment of boldly expressive music with potent stylistic sensitivity, particularly the passionate extremes of emotion that vie with each other in what the composer referred to as his “agitated style”.

Such battling sentiments were viscerally illustrated in a sequence that journeyed from the mercurial Altri canti d’amor, through mezzo soprano Clare Wilkinson’s intimately glowing performance of Si dolce e’l tormento, to the climax of the afternoon, the mini-operatic Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, with its blood-curdling string effects (tremolando and bullet-like pizzicato) and a whole battery of vocal dexterity and instrumental imagery.

Fine solo performances, too, from tenor Nicholas Mulroy (radiantly pure in Tempro la centra) and soprano Mhairi Lawson; and from the neatly precise period instrument ensemble, which punctuated the afternoon with flavoursome contributions of its own by Dario Castello and Biagio Marini.

And what a moving way to end – Pur ti miro with its heart-tugging suspensions. Possibly not by Monteverdi, but who cares?

Seen on 11.05.14