Nota Bene directed by Sarah Mead with Anney Barrett, Matthew Anderson, Jason McStoots, Michael Barrett, Steven Hrycleka STTTB & Julie Jeffrey bass viol
Toccata Classics TOCC 0553
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These fourteen ‘spiritual sonnets’ by Vittoria Colonna set in five parts by the Sicilian composer Pietro Vinci, and receiving their first recording here, are striking pieces, combining the traditions of both secular and sacred vocal music. They inhabit the same intermediate world as Lassus’ Lagrime di San Pietro, and although they lack the consummate genius of Lassus’ masterpiece, they predate it by some 14 years. In these performances, the voices (STTTB) are doubled by viols to produce an effectively rich texture. Although I felt the singing occasionally sounded a little bit unconvincing, as if the vocal ensemble could have done with an additional couple of rehearsals, this is intriguing music well worth unearthing and recording, and rewarding to listen to. I suspect it is as tricky to sing effectively as the Lassus Lagrime set, and may even offer the same challenges regarding vocal ranges. In any case, Nota Bene and their vocalists have succeeded in bringing Vinci’s distinctive music to the wider audience it surely deserves. For those particularly interested in the consort of Brescian Renaissance viols employed in the recording, there is a lovely illustration inside the CD case.
D. James Ross