Les Arts Florissants: Monteverdi Madrigals

Music, Classical and opera
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Les Arts Florissants: Monteverdi Madrigals
Photograph: Philippe Grollier
Les Arts Florissants with Paul Agnew

The prestigious French early-music ensemble are performing two concerts of Renaissance madrigals at Chatswood Concourse

Les Arts Florissants is respected worldwide mainly for its pioneering performances of treasures retrieved from the French Baroque. For their next tour in Australia with six singers and three instruments they turn to the Italian Renaissance for a big birthday of one of its most important composers.

Claudio Monteverdi was born 450 years ago in Cremona, moved mid-career 60kms east to Mantua, and later 200kms farther to Venice, where he died in 1643.

These separate states and their neighbours were jostling in many important areas – military, economic, and artistic. By luring talent and fostering innovation, that plain south of the Alps called the Po Valley significantly advanced Western civilization in ways that remain impressive.

In 1601 Monteverdi wrote the first opera that is still frequently performed, l’Orfeo. It’s a stretch to say he or anyone invented the artform, but over his long career he evolved his vocal writing from its beginnings in madrigals and church music to better suit plot and stage.

Two concerts in the fine acoustic of the Concourse in Chatswood demonstrate this progression aloud: the first concert with pieces from his time as a student and chorister in Cremona, the second when he worked for the Gonzaga dynasty in Mantua.

For Venice, the clear leader in naval trade but not necessarily in musical innovation, you’ll have to fall back on their award-winning CDs by Paul Agnew, who also leads the two concerts here.

By: Jason Catlett


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