Musica Secreta Box - Musica Secreta - Early Music Review

01 May 2005
Early Music Review

Musica Secreta is the name of the group, but it applies as well to the repertoire, music of Italian nunneries. I wrote at some length about the first of these discs in EMR 40 pp.14-15, though see that most of my comments are more on singing in nunneries than praise of the actual performances - but I will repeat that the performances are completely convincing. In the Cozzolani disc, there is one more singer, the alto Caroline Trevor. This is a selection from two publications, Concerti sacri (1642) and Salmi a otto concertati (1650) - but there is no multi-tracking: the pieces from the 1650 set are smaller-scale. For a fine sampler of Cozzolani's composition as well as the performers, try the Easter dialogue of Mary Magdalene and the angels (track 5).

The Rore disc (featuring Wert and Luzzaschi as well) is rather different. We move to the previous century and from sacred to secular, with a repertoire devised for female singers at court. Those listed for the Vizzana disc are supplemented by Emily van Evera and Richard Wistreich (SB) with Frances Kelly harp, David Miller lute, and Matthew Halls hpscd. It received a typically thoughtful review from Eric Van Tassel in EMR 83 p.17, who found the distortion of the music disconcerting, objecting to 16th century not 21st century performance practice. I was more sympathetic and commented: 'the subtlety of the original is replaced by a surface glitter that may seem to some trivial but which, when well done, offers an alternative experience'. And well done it is! The recording demonstrates (though that is far too clinical a term for these beautiful performances) how what are apparently five-voice madrigals might have been performed by the famous trio of ladies at Ferrara and imitators elsewhere.

All these discs are thoroughly documented, and that of the Rore commendably and helpfully lists who sings or plays which part and how the instruments cover the missing lower parts. If you haven't bought them already, don't resist the tempting price of not much more than a single disc.

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