Monteverdi & Scelsi: Vita

Monteverdi & Scelsi: Vita

by Sonia Wieder-Atherton


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Monteverdi & Scelsi: Vita

French cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton is no stranger to developing projects that take her beyond the traditional repertoire; other CDs of her transcriptions include Chants juifs and Chants d'est: Songs from Slavic Lands. Here she juxtaposes her arrangements for three cellos of Monteverdi madrigals (some of which were made with Franck Krawczyk) with excerpts from Giacinto Scelsi's massive trilogy, "The Three Ages of Man for solo cello." The Monteverdi selections are not from among his greatest hits, and divorced from the texts that the music so vividly illustrates, they come across as strangely abstract, more closely related to the sound world of Scelsi's modernism than it would have been possible to imagine. The Vita (Life) of the album's title is presented largely as a darkly meditative and sometimes disturbingly grim prospect; the tone is for the most part subdued, contemplative, and mysterious, with moments, particularly in the Scelsi, that erupt into angst and grief. This may not be the general listener's cup of tea, but it is well executed and could appeal to fans of somber string chamber music. Wieder-Atherton's playing is always intelligent and daringly honest. She is not afraid to allow her tone to become thin and white, and not particularly beautiful, in expressing empty, drained desolation when the music calls for it. Cellists Sarah Iancu and Matthieu Lejeune adopt a tone that matches Wieder-Atherton's. The tone of the performances couldn't be called warm, but it is expressive of a reserved, enervated sadness. The sound of Naïve's CD is present and vividly detailed.

Product Details

Release Date: 03/29/2011
Label: Naive
UPC: 0822186052570
catalogNumber: 5257
Rank: 183628


  1. Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, dramatic cantata (from Book 8), SV 153: [Excerpt]
  2. Hor ch'el ciel e la terra e'l vento tace, madrigal for 6 voices and 2 violins (from Book 8), SV 147: [Excerpt]
  3. Altri canti d'amor, dramatic madrigal for 6 voices, 2 violins & 4 violas (from Book 8), SV 146: [Excerpt]
  4. L'incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Introduction. Non morir Senequa
  5. Mentre vaga Angioletta ogn'anima gentil cantando alletta, madrigal for 2 tenors (from Book 8), SV 157
  6. Trilogia (Die drei Lebensalter des Menschen), for solo cello: Triphon II
  7. Ardo si ma non t'amo, madrigal in 3 sections for 5 voices (from Book 1), SV 39
  8. Se i languidi miei sguardi (Lettera amorosa), madrigal for soprano (from Book 7), SV 141
  9. Trilogia (Die drei Lebensalter des Menschen), for solo cello: Ygghur I
  10. Trilogia (Die drei Lebensalter des Menschen), for solo cello: Dithome
  11. Trilogia (Die drei Lebensalter des Menschen), for solo cello: Triphon III

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Monteverdi & Scelsi: Vita 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
KlingonOpera More than 1 year ago
The first piece is Monteverdi’s “avoce sola’ se I languidi miei sguardi”, and this cello transcription could have well been written for the instrument. It is slow and sorrowful, and difficult to listen to at first, it hits home so deeply. The next track is “ardo” and the mood continues. But then we get into the Scelsi work “triphon i” and the mood and texture shift, as Scelsi’s music is more discordant and less fluid than Monteverdi’s. It is attention getting, but so all-encompassing was the Monteverdi that I found the Scelsi unpleasant. We then return to the Monteverdi for two more transcriptions, and all is well again. Then Scelsi returns with the second part of his trilogy “triphon ii”, and again the dissonances don’t quite seem to fit. The rest of the recording alternates between Monteverdi and Scelsi, and each time I preferred Monteverdi’s music to Scelsi’s. In the liner notes, Ms. Wieder-Atherton explains that most of the transcriptions on this recording come from Monteverdi’s eighth book (the book of loves and wars), and that she felt that Giacinto Scelsi (born in 1905) was also exploring the forces of human nature in his own way. It is also explained that for Scelsi’s “ygghur” the four strings of the cello were tuned differently, giving birth to weird sounds. That is certainly true – but it didn’t work for me. However, her cello playing is expressive and her tone is gorgeous throughout. So I’m on the fence about this recording. I really like the Monteverdi, but am tempted to burn a copy of the disc without the Scelsi tracks. However, if the combination of the old and the new is your kind of thing, then this recording might just fit the bill.