Philippe de Monte: Madrigals and Chansons
Ratas del viejo Mundo
Outhere/Ramée RAM2004. 50’59
The curiously named Ratas del viejo Mundo (Rats of the Old World) take a nibble at the music of Philippe de Monte (1521-1603). Although praised in his day, de Monte is now a rather under-rated composer, at least in comparison to the many other Flemish musicians who made their name in the wider European context. Like many of his compatriots, he soon moved to Italy where he made his name in Naples and Rome. He spent a brief time in England in the choir of Philip II of Spain before becoming Kapellmeister in the chapel of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II.
The Old World Rats are soprano Michaela Riener, mezzo Soetkin Baptist, alto Anne Rindahl Karlsen and bass Tomàs Maxé, with Salomé Gasselin and Garance Boizot, violas da gamba, and Floris De Rycker, lute and guitar. The use of an alto rather than a tenor raised an eyebrow, but it seems to work. I can find very little information about them, although they seem to be based in Belgium. The close-miked recording gives a suitably domestic feel to the music, albeit at the cost of some occasionally rather exposed vocal technique. That aside, I liked the singing, which is clean-cut and unaffected and the delicate instrumental accompaniments and occasional solos.
Although the CD is rather short at just over 50 minutes, there are 16 tracks, all secular in nature. The lack of musical variety in the music is countered by varying the textures and accompaniments, although I am not sure about doing that in the middle of a piece, which does happen occasionally. Although the music is perhaps not quite up to the level of some of his Flemish contemporaries, it is certainly attractive and will repay repeated listening. More information here.