I nearly skipped from the Jong Barok’s fringe concert, across Utrecht and its market to Tivoli-Vredenburgh. This is the Early Music Festival’s hub for 10 days. The building contains several concert halls in different sizes. During the lunch hour, its largest hall is used for fringe concerts by musicians who have graduated from “just” fringe to the fabulous fringe group.
The Windsor Consort treated a well-filled large hall to madrigals by Monteverdi, Gastoldi and Marenzio. Before their concert started, I chatted a bit with my neighbour who had filed in pretty late. Not surprising: he was one of the many volunteers who ensure the whole festival with its many concerts and other activities at various locations, starting from about 11:00 and lasting well past midnight, runs like a nearly perfectly oiled machine.
In case you are a visitor like me, imagine having to be up and ready well before 09:00. For at 09:00, plenty visitors are already cramming into Tivoli-Vrendenburg to obtain tickets, exchange surplus or no-longer-wanted tickets, ask silly and interesting questions at the information desk, moan and demand free tickets for fringe concerts.
I was told the schedule and organisation had changed slightly for the volunteers. His stint was starting after this concert and would run up to 22:00 this day. He seemed mostly involved helping out various artists prepare for their concerts. As he had filed in late, he did not have a program of what the Windsor Consort were going to sing, so he had a look at mine.
Though no great fan of madrigals, I certainly did not share his grumbling about Amarilli – wether interpreted by Monteverdi or Luca Marenzio. The Windsor Concort started with Monteverdi’s version and ended their concert with an interpretation by Luca Marenzio of texts all from Guarini’s “Il Pastor Fido”. They had called their concert “Ah, dolente partita: the love affair of Amarilli and Mirtillo.”
“Il Pastor Fido” was a blockbuster at the time and its influence swarmed all over Europe. Even limiting oneself to studying English, or French, or even German literature, one cannot escape coming across Mirtillos and Amarillis. The Windsor Consort’s rendering of the various songs by Monteverdi or Marenzio or Gastoldi was far, far better than having to read copy-cat or imitation poetry, or awful translations of this love affair from “Il Pastor Fido”.
The concert was all 16th and 17th Italian “love is in the air”, with emotions running high and not just two Cruda Amarilli. At times, the Windsor Consort did manage to convey the extreme emotions and lovers’ tiffs. However, more temperament and acting or drama, would not have been amiss. There were also several moments, where I suddenly had a kind of déjà-vu or copy-cat experience: certain manners of performing strongly reminded me of last year’s concerts by the then artists in residence.
Perhaps I am too used to the Hilliard or Huelgas Ensembles and a bit spoiled. It was a nice enough concert, but not over the top experience. Nevertheless: a majority of the public went wild. It was not just standing ovations, but cat-calls and whoops; which in my opinion was as extreme as the Amarillis and Mirtillo ado.
The Windsor Consort
- Monica Monteiro soprano
- Victoria Cassano mezzo soprano
- William Knight tenor
- João Moreita tenor
- Andrew Hopper bass
- Monteverdi Cruda Amarilli; from Il quinto libro de madrigall Venice 1605
- Marenzio Quel augellin che canta; from il quarto libro de madrigali Venice 1584
- G Gastoldi O sfortunato e misero Mirtillo, Cieco, Amor, non ti credío, Ma tu pur perfico, Sciolto con fa piè fugace, Mira numa trionfante; from Il quarto libro de madrigali, Venice 1602
- Monteverdi Chío támi, Deh bella e cara, Ma tu più che mai dura; from il quinto libro de madrigali
- Marensio Ah dolente partita; from il quarto libro de madrigali
- Monteverdi Anima mia perdona, Che se tu seíl cor moi; from il quarto libro de madrigali Venice 1603
- G.G. Gastoldi Arda pur sempre o mora; from il quarto libro de madrigali
- Marenzio Ombroso e care selve; from il settimo libro de madrigali, Venice 1595
- Monteverdi O Mirtillo Mirtillo anima mia; from Il quinto libro de madrigali
- Marenzio Cruda Amarilli; from il settimo libro de madrigali