The Duarte Circle: Antwerp 1640

Transports Publics, Thomas Baeté
Musica Ficta MF 8028

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he charming idea behind this CD are concerts given in Antwerp around 1640 by the Jewish heritage Portuguese émigré family Duarte. A letter from Anna Roemers Visscher who attended one such concert in 1640 provides details of the instruments the family played and also some of their repertoire, while the survival of some of Leonora Duarte’s compositions allows these to included alongside other likely pieces by English and continental composers of the time. Duarte’s sinfonias for five viols, performed imaginatively here on a variety of the available instruments, are in the English viol consort style and prove to be works of considerable accomplishment and attractiveness. The quirkily named ensemble Transports Publics are joined for this project by the delightful guest sopranos Olalla Alemàn and Gret de Geyter. It is easy to be transported into the public rooms of the Duarte family, cluttered with keyboard instruments and bedecked with fine paintings, for the duration of this evocative and eloquently performed programme, which includes a nod in the direction of the Duartes’ Sephardic roots with music by Salamone Rossi and the Sephardic song El paso del mar rojo. While this latter piece would be unlikely to have been performed openly in a concert by the Duartes, intent on cultivating their Catholic credentials, the fact that Leonora Duarte hid the tune in one of her sinfonias is perhaps highly significant.

D. James Ross

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