Dorothee Mields: Monteverdi - La dolce vita
This delectable collection of Monteverdi for soprano and ensemble is titled ‘La dolce vita’, and while it’s a perfect fit for these impossibly lively, light footed and vivacious performances by Dorothee Mields and Wolfgang Katschner’s Lautten Compagney, it speaks to the weakness of this otherwise delightful recital. Monteverdi’s musical world is one painted in primary colours; life may be ecstatic or tragic but it is never merely sweet. And while Mields and her collaborators give us plenty of pleasure, they rarely find the emotional friction of that pleasure-in-pain that is at the core of so much of this repertoire, whether sacred or secular.
Karl Böhmer’s elegant booklet note guides us to a more accurate description of an eclectic programme that draws on not only the composer’s solo madrigals but also his Selva morale motets, Vespers, choral madrigals and operas: love sacred and profane. Often this magpie approach involves an element of musical adjustment or reworking for these forces. We get a Lamento della Ninfa with the shepherds’ interjections taken (very expressively) by a trio of solo strings, while the duet Zefiro torna becomes a giddy solo with a cornett supplying the imitative second part. Whether Damigella and Valletto’s dialogue ‘Sento un certo non so che’ from Poppea works quite as well for a single voice is debatable; but so irrepressibly, itchily urgent are the instrumental interludes, their eroticism cutting against the chaste prettiness of Mields’s solo line, that the inclusion is a welcome one.
The instrumental contributions throughout are a real highlight – whether the lovely interventions from a pair of solo violins in ‘Si dolce e il tormento’, the vibrant Ballo from Orfeo or a vividly characterised fragment from Il ballo delle ingrate – and Mields’s artless delivery makes for an attractive and infinitely listenable recital, even if musical passions never quite glow red-hot.