Tenet (Jolle Greenleaf, Molly Quinn & Virginia Warnken Kelsey sopranos, with gamba, harpsichord, theorbo, lute and baroque guitar)
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here are 18 items here, nos 1, 4, 7, 9, 14 & 16 being instrumental. It is an excellent anthology, mostly from the first half of the 17th century, though the earliest is Diego Ortiz from 1553, the ground bass surviving well into the 17th century. The music is more-or-less equally divided between the voices, and they sound well. Barbara Strozzi is the outstanding composer, with support from Caccini, d’India, Luigi Rossi and Mazzocchi. Do buy it.
However, there are oddities. The normal extra pieces of information that one expects in such anthologies are missing: dates of composers and who sang what. It’s frustrating, particularly since it takes so little space, and it is usual for biographies of composers to be separated from those of performers. But the layout of Italian and English translations work well.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he New York City-based ensemble perform a programme which professes to revolve around the Concerto delle donne, the trio of female virtuosi who graced the late Renaissance Court of Ferrara. In fact while female composers such as Barbara Strozzi are included, very little of the music here relates directly to the famous trio, and the group’s main composer Luzzascho Luzzaschi is absent completely. The recorded sound is also a bit of an enigma, sounding rather uncomfortably close with a rather synthetic-sounding after-echo, so while the playing and singing is generally pleasant, the overall sound is less than satisfying and a little uncomfortable to listen to for any length of time. This is a pity, as the three singers bring a pleasing spontaneity to tracks such as the anonymous Passacaglia della vita, and the recorded sound seems to cramp their style. The inclusion of a contemporary piece by Caroline Shaw is also a bit of an indulgence – not long enough to establish the more adventurous sound world, but nonetheless a disruption to the Renaissance programme. All in all, I found this CD a bit of a hotch potch, and its idiosyncratic ambience was distinctly off-putting. This is a shame as the performances seem quite good and yet the captured sound is disappointing and the programme a bit unfocused.
D. James Ross