Musica Secreta - Dangerous Graces: Music by Cipriano de Rore and pupils - Amazon.co.uk

Musica Secreta, with guest soprano Emily van Evera, continues its rediscovery of early-music repertoire for female ensemble, Dangerous Graces being the first of two albums developed from the Southampton University project "Female musicians at the courts of Ferrara and Parma, 1565-1589".

The music, by Cipriano de Rore and his pupils Luzzasco Luzzaschi and Giaches de Wert, was originally performed by a once-celebrated ensemble of virtuoso women musicians at the court of Duke Alfonso II d'Este. The women freely adapted their repertoire, transposing vocal parts or transferring them to instrumental lines, and adding their own elaborate ornamentations. Musica Secreta haw sought to recreate the sound and spirit of this late-Renaissance ensemble with the musicians arranging their own parts, developing continuo lines during rehearsal and giving free reign to improvisation.

The result is a refreshing sound in the sometimes sexless world of early music, from Catherine King's sombre lament O Sonno, o della queta humida ombrosa to the sensual ensemble Tirsi morir volea, in which lovers die "a death so sweet and delightful, that they returned to life to die again". Though the church acoustic does not reflect the original secular performances, which were at time closer to modern cabaret, this is a unique collection restoring with seriousness and integrity a forgotten part of female musical history.

08 April 2002