Anyone wishing to avoid the sweat box that is the Royal Albert Hall at this time of year could have done a lot worse than attend this sparkling summer concert by the chamber choir, Voce. It's an attractive ensemble, in all senses of the word, 'of around thirty people in their 20s and 30s' (whether that's policy or an accident I'm not sure) that's directed by its founder, Suzi Digby.
On show last night were works by Handel and Pergolesi plus a couple of pieces from a collection of manuscripts, unheard since their composition, that have been in the keep of the descendants of the Duke and Duchess of Montagu. This included Numi, numi pietosi by Hurka de Monti (c.1753-1823), an Austro-Hungarian who became a piano tuner in Glasgow, and When Saul was King over us by Giovanni Battista Bononcini (1670-1747, an Italian brought to London by the Duke of Burlington where he composed several operas for Handel's Royal Academy of Music before leaving for Vienna where he apparently died in poverty.
Lovely though they were, with some very assured solos from various members of the choir, they were easily eclipsed by Monteverdi's Love Madrigals that followed. I'd only ever heard these sung by a small ensemble before but strangely in the hands of a large choir, Monteverdi's exquisite harmonies felt more succulent and exciting.
The highlight was Mike Brewer's piece Amore Vittorioso, especially commissioned by Voce, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Monteverdi's setting of the Vespers. It was a stunning piece, imagine a 16th century madrigal on LSD, with two trumpeters crowning the work with Monteverdi like fanfares.