Heroines of Love and Loss

Ruby Hughes soprano, Mime Yamahiro Brinkmann cello, Jonas Nordberg lute
71:28
BIS-2248 SACD
Music by Bennet, F. Caccini, Kapsberger, Piccinini, Purcell, Sessa, B. Strozzi, Vivaldi, Vizzana & anon

For all its apparent thematic interest, his CD is really a showcase for the vocal skills of Ruby Hughes, and these turn out to be considerable indeed. In these songs accompanied by lute and cello there is no place to hide, but Hughes’ impeccable technique and expressive imagination take us on a rewarding tour of this lovely repertoire. Her opening Purcell air from Bonduca  ‘O, lead me to some peaceful gloom’ establishes the air of melancholy which will prevail, but also lays out Hughes’ credentials as she demonstrates a rich palette of vocal colours. These truly come into their own later in Hughes’ intense account of Dido’s Lament. Amongst the tragic heroines we also have fine music by 17th-century women composers Barbara Strozzi, Claudia Sessa, Lucrezzia Vizzana and Francesca Caccini, who – with the possible exception of Strozzi – have left distressingly limited evidence of their musical careers. I have highlighted Ruby Hughes’ lovely singing, but the instrumentalists both accompany her impeccably as well as contributing fine instrumental interludes of their own. These include engaging accounts of movements from Vivaldi’s G minor Cello Sonata and a wonderful Toccata Arpeggiata  by Giovanni Kapsberger and a Ciaccona  by Alessandro Piccini both for solo theorbo. The CD ends appropriately with a riveting account of the anonymous ‘O death, rock me asleep’, the words of which are attributed to the tragic Anne Boleyn.

D. James Ross