Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria

MonteverdiIl ritorno d’Ulisse in patria
Boston Baroque, Martin Pearlman (conductor)
Linn CKD451.  3 CDs. 176’

Monteverdi’s 1640 Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria is not as well-known as his Orfeo (1607) or L’incoronazione di Poppea (1643), partly because of the difficulties in preparing a performing edition from the rather scant surviving evidence. For this recording, made in the studio shortly after a semi-staged production in Boston in April 2014, Boston Baroque’s director, Martin Pearlman, uses his own relatively conservative edition. As well as the orchestral ritornellos Pearlman has added a few orchestral colourings (using strings, cornetts and recorders) to the continuo line (of two theorbos, guitar, cello, two harpsichords, organ and an attractively buzzy regal). The use of instruments such as the cello (a later development from the bass instruments of Monteverdi’s time) suggests a certain relaxing of strict instrumental authenticity, but this does not detract from an otherwise impression edition. There is a nice balance between the over-orchestrations of yesteryear and severely austere continuo-only interpretations. Indeed, one of the highlights is Pearlman’s use of the various instrumental colours, with particularly effective contributions being made by the continuo theorbo players. Continue reading