Clair obscur – in the footsteps of Caravaggio

Light and shade in 17th-century Italian music
Adriana Fernandez soprano, Sacqeboutiers
Flora DDD2009

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his is a strong and well recorded programme of early 17th-century Italian music which is let down by the presentation and some questionable performance practice. Lute and sackbut as a continuo team? Should a sackbut play the solo line in a sonata by Castello (described as a canzon in the contents list)? And in Monteverdi’s Zefiro torna – presented with one singer and cornetto rather than a vocal duet – the soloists change parts at one point, but there’s still one section of text that doesn’t get sung. You just can’t do this sort of thing, at least on disc. But I must say that Adriana Fernandez is a fine singer of this music and the playing is technically brilliant. The Frescobaldi canzona was the highlight for me. Not only is the performance stylistically strong though unfussy, I suspect I’m not the only inhabitant of EMR-land to have cut at least some of my early music teeth on Bernard Thomas’s black books of this repertoire. The booklet is mainly in French with Latin/Italian texts translated into that language. There are a few words explaining the concept of the programme but no detailed list of who is playing/singing what or information about the music and performers. Come on Flora, get a grip.

David Hansell

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