TENET: UNO + ONE
Monteverdi sung by twins? You could jump to that conclusion hearing this disc of vocal duets by Tenet’s perfectly matched sopranos Jolle Greenleaf and Molly Quinn, who could also pass for sisters in the booklet photos. In fact, Quinn and Tenet’s artistic director Greenleaf have a significant age difference, and each voice has a specific timbre. But somehow they converge into what often feels like a single sound, aided by their near-telepathic musical rapport.
Their highly personal selection of music is a mixed programme of light and heavy, vocal and instrumental works drawn from Monteverdi’s Eighth Book of Madrigals among several other places, that also includes music by Luigi Rossi, Martino Pesenti and a few other names that even close Monteverdi followers might not know, ending with the final love duet from Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppaea. It’s also brilliantly sequenced, moving from one emotional zone to another with an operatic sense of peaks, valleys, tension and release.
Over years of performing Monteverdi’s Vespers annually, this New York City-based group has evolved a distinctive performance manner, more visceral than reflective and with tempi that never linger. The music sometimes seems so aggressive as to be a bit shocking next to the more reflective Monteverdi in the recent recording of Orfeo by Andrew Parrott (Avie, 6/13).
The approach to the vocal line is incredibly conversational. Both vocalists sing in what feels like their first language, their profound ease with the early Baroque idiom being apparent in how effortlessly the trillo caprino ripples from their throats. With such well-matched voices, duets can seem almost Jungian, with a particular emotion dissected into different shades by the two voices. In lighter moments, they can also be duelling shepherdesses elbowing each other out of the way. And they don’t inject their own pathos: the music, rendered with crystal-clear precision, takes care of that quite nicely. On its own terms, this disc is a complete success.