What Artemisia Heard

Music and Art from the Time of Caravaggio and Gentileschi
El Mundo, Richard Savino
76:26
Sono Luminus DSL-92195

For those, like me, less well versed in the sphere of Renaissance Italian art, the Artemisia of the title is Artemisia Gentileschi, the painter daughter of Orazio Gentileschi, upon whose life the current CD is based. The release of the CD coincides happily with the release of Alexandra Lapierre’s historical novel Artemisia, although Savino clearly had cold feet about marketing the CD purely under the name of Artemisia and has rather spuriously bolted on the much more familiar name of Caravaggio. Artemisia’s travels bring her to Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples and London, and Savino has assembled vocal and instrumental music from these five great cultural centres of the Renaissance.

This assemblage of music cleverly includes unfamiliar names such as Gagliano, Mazzocchi, Corbetta, Falconieri and Giramo among the more familiar Monteverdi, Caccini, Rossi and Lanier. The performances by the singers and instrumentalists of El Mundo are lively and heavily characterized, although I felt the group’s female voices occasionally sacrificed intonation in the interests of drama, which would become wearing on repeated listening, but when singing in ensemble this was less intrusive. On the positive side there is some lovely and unobtrusive vocal ornamaentation. The enormous continuo department includes Baroque guitars, harps, archlute, theorbos, harpsichord and organ, and as a result there is an engaging variety of instrumental colours on display. This is an enjoyable CD with a pleasing variety of music artfully performed, and from the paintings reproduced in the booklet Artemisia Gentileschi deserves more attention as a member of the small group of genuinely talented woman painters working in what was essentially a man’s world.

D. James Ross