This is a sequence of Italian early baroque, mainly instrumental pieces by Monteverdi and Salomone Rossi, with a few additions from a handful of other composers. There are also a few vocal works, sung by tenor Zachary Wilder. Performance is by the excellent small early music ensemble Clematis.
Aftter Viadana's opening 'Canzon francese', the instrumental sequence from Rossi's 'Primo libro delle sinfonie e gagliarde' (tracks 2-6) is beautifully melodious, and strikingly Monteverdian in character. This is followed by the wonderful 'Tempro la cetra' from Monteverdi's 7th book of madrigals, sung by Wilder in agile and expressive manner but with a slight edge to his voice in this recording. The decorations in the instrumental interludes are lovely. More pieces from S. Rossi follow (8-14), again very fine and with some extremely catchy melodies.
Monteverdi's instrumental Ballo from 'Il Ballo delle Ingrate' is especially beautiful, enhanced by very stylish embellishments. The sung sequence from Act 2 of Orfeo is nice to hear but could have done with the more usual complement of woodwind instruments. The programme closes with a poetic instrumental 'Sonata in Dialogo detta la Vienna' by Rossi.
I find this programme somewhat rambling and not very well organised, but it does serve to illustrate the mastery of Monteverdi's instrumental writing – often overlooked in the context of his extraordinary achievements in music for the voice. The booklet note rightly mentions Monteverdi's 'Sonata sopra Sancta Maria ora pro nobis' from the Vespers as an outstanding, predominantly instrumental, piece – indeed it would have made a fine addition to this recital and should really have been included, although of course this would have involved roping in several more instrumentalists. The other advantage of the present recording is its introduction (to many listeners at least, including me) of the outstandingly graceful talent of Salomone Rossi, whose music stands up extremely well in the exalted company of the great master.