The Full Monteverdi

Monteverdi the modern man
May 18, 2010, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Music

Music director Robert Hollingworth offers fascinating insights into the music of Monteverdi in his keynote speech for the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music.

Why Monteverdi’s fourth book?
January 31, 2010, 4:45 pm
Filed under: General, Music

Music director of The Full Monteverdi, Robert Hollingworth, will be talking on BBC Radio 3 this Sunday 31st January about why Monteverdi’s fourth book of madrigals is top of his list of all-time favourites:

At school in chemistry lessons, instead of writing up experiments, I used to list my all-time favourite cricketers. (Mr Morris encouraged my parents to let me give up chemistry.) On going to university to read music, my tutor John Milsom, perhaps recognising this penchant for lists, asked me what I thought were the greatest books of madrigals ever and while we argued about 2nd and 3rd place, there was never any question of what came first: Monteverdi’s 4th book of madrigals from 1603. It has an unequalled variety and a virtuosity that leaves you breathless, but what hit me as a 20 year old setting up my own solo-voice ensemble was its emotional power.

For years, I performed these pieces with I Fagiolini, noting the different audience reactions. Although I find UK audiences very sophisticated when it comes to listening to Renaissance polyphony in general, I was often disappointed when it came to their emotional reaction to Monteverdi which seemed to be more intellectual than emotional – although that was perhaps more how they expressed what they felt.

Anyway, when John La Bouchardière came along with his idea of dramatising an entire book of madrigals, that same 4th book, I was very interested, though quite skeptical as I didn’t think an audience would be able to listen to that much polyphony without some help along the way by means of pauses. We tried it out and the rest is history – but the thing that convinced me to go ahead with the project was that it would change the way some audiences heard and felt the music.

Sunday’s programme on Radio 3 looks at nearly all of Monteverdi’s 4th book, in performances by I Fagiolini and The Consort of Musicke along with the two top Italian ensembles, Concerto Italiano and La Venexiana. This comparison with the other groups should be interesting in itself and a non-dramatic introduction to the pieces worthwhile for anyone who has seen the film but not looked at the music on its own. For my part, I now find it quite difficult to sing the music without remembering what happened in The Full Monteverdi at that point…

To hear the programme and for more about the show:

Parisian Parlance
June 16, 2008, 12:35 pm
Filed under: Music, Press

Music director of The Full Monteverdi, Robert Hollingworth, has been interviewed on the French airwaves. Robert was invited to Paris by Radio Classique for a discussion with Philippe Venturini, the critic whose review led to the film’s Choc du monde de la musique award. The interview, of course, was in French…

July 12, 2007, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Live show, Music

…or is that a plane?

The live show is back. After sell-out performances in London this week, it will play at New York’s prestigious Lincoln Center from 22 to 29 July. See for more details. The run is sold out.

December 17, 2006, 1:43 pm
Filed under: Music

In choosing a venue for this recording, I discussed with John (director) and
Greg (producer) what sort of sound we were aiming at. We decided that as
the music was the reason for the film, the music should be recorded in a way
that allowed it to speak most effectively. A slightly resonant acoustic was
best for this. We could not, in any case, match the acoustic with the
location venues as they would be too disparate: restaurant, flat, outside
etc. So we decided that the soundtrack would have its own acoustic which
would be true to the music.

St.George’s Chesterton is a resonant church in a cul-de-sac in the
north-east of Cambridge. Its benefits are that outside noise is minimal
(apart from police helicopters, we discovered) and that the walls are far
enough away to be able to control the sound. We recorded 8 track with 2
pairs to make a good general mix and then five spots to allow in the edit a
focus on one particular singer, should that be necessary. The sound is
slightly more close-up than one would use for a CD but we have various
options in the editing so will not to deal with that until we have the film
to match it to.

It’s a strange way round, recording the sound first! For the singers, the
live show was present enough in their minds, with encouragement of director
John La Bouchardiere, but of course we are not filming the live show but a
version for TV which has many scenes and flashbacks that weren’t visually in
the show. So there were various changes of emphasis and drama that made the
job more complicated.

I think we were all a little hesitant about just how long it would take to
record these pieces, given the different constraints on us from ‘usual’
sound recordings. In the end, we managed everything in 5 sessions, which is
good. The singers were incredibly focussed, healthy (don’t let anyone take
that for granted – a little cough or sniffle can waste months of planning) –
and produced take after take of pure gold. I’ve been choosing takes for the
editor to snip together since and am feelinig good about the result.

Robert Hollingworth – Music Director

December 5, 2006, 8:31 pm
Filed under: Music, Preproduction

A selection of production stills taken at the soundtrack recording last week. Martyn Poynor crossed the country from rural Herefordshire to Cambridge and what fantastic results.

Robert Hollingworth and I Fagiolini

Robert Hollingworth (Music Director) and I Fagiolini

Giles Underwood

Giles Underwood (Bass)

Carys Lane

Carys Lane (Soprano)

Matthew Brook

Matthew Brook (Baritone)

Robert and John

Robert Hollingworth and John La Bouchardière (Director)

Sammy Mulroy

Nicholas Mulroy (Tenor)

The end of the session. Robert will now be working with our Music Editor Rachel Smith to get an initial rough cut of the soundtrack together ready for the Heads of Department meetings next week.

For press quality images please email

A sound recording
December 1, 2006, 6:50 pm
Filed under: Music, Preproduction

After three grueling days in St George’s Church Cambridge, the soundtrack for The Full Monteverdi is recorded. Full blog from our Music Director shortly. In the meantime, thanks to Peter Newble our engineer for the duration and particularly to the singers who once again gave such dedicated and astounding sessions.

Quiet please!

happy birthday
October 4, 2006, 12:01 pm
Filed under: Music

I Fagiolini are currently celebrating their 20 year anniversary. Many happy returns from the TFM blog, may the next 20 years be as inspirational as the last.

“It was in early October 1986 that I Fagiolini first rehearsed together in the Song Room at New College, Oxford. Schütz, Monteverdi and Janequin were on the menu and the audience was a wide range of students from different disciplines. It was clear that this ensemble aimed to get to the heart of the various styles but was also committed to making it work for the widest possible audience. The years since have only reaffirmed that aim.”

Anniversary concerts are at London’s Wigmore Hall (4/10/06), Durham (27/10/06) and Oxford (9/11/06) see for more information.