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Musica Secreta - Lucrezia Vizzana Componimenti Musicali - BBC Music Magazine

06 April 1998
BBC Music Magazine
Kate Bolton
4½ Stars

'Piety, Passion and Scandal in a Bolognese Convent' – so reads the publicity for this recording of early 17th-century Latin sacred motets by the nun Lucrezia Vizzana. Thankfully, the CD itself is free of sensationalism, and provides a fascinating glimpse of cloistered musical creativity. Vizzana's Componimenti musicali is a collection of devotional motets and spiritual love songs – some addressing Jesus in the quasi-erotic, perfumed language reminiscent of the Song of Songs, others in praise of music. Vizzana's vocal lines, with their surging ecstatic melismas and rhetorical gestures, are appropriately honeyed, and at its best this music could pass for Monteverdi or Barbara Strozzi. But the largely untutored inspiration results in a lack of harmonic variety and some awkward progressions.

Musica Secreta specialises in the 'secret music' written by or for women in the 17th century. There is no doubt about the integrity and intelligence of its performances, and the sound of the ensemble's female voices is refined and exquisitely sweet – a far cry indeed from the promised passion and scandal.

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