Early Music Review | April 2016 | The Secret Lover

By Clifford Bartlett, Early Music Review

There are 18 items here, nos 1, 4, 7, 9, 14 & 16 being instrumental. It is an excellent anthology, mostly from the first half of the 17th century, though the earliest is Diego Ortiz from 1553, the ground bass surviving well into the 17th century. The music is more-or-less equally divided between the voices, and they sound well. Barbara Strozzi is the outstanding composer, with support from Caccini, d’India, Luigi Rossi and Mazzocchi. Do buy it.

However, there are oddities. The normal extra pieces of information that one expects in such anthologies are missing: dates of composers and who sang what. It’s frustrating, particularly since it takes so little space, and it is usual for biographies of composers to be separated from those of performers. But the layout of Italian and English translations work well.

By D. James Ross, Early Music Review

The New York City-based ensemble perform a programme which professes to revolve around the Concerto delle donne, the trio of female virtuosi who graced the late Renaissance Court of Ferrara. In fact while female composers such as Barbara Strozzi are included, very little of the music here relates directly to the famous trio, and the group’s main composer Luzzascho Luzzaschi is absent completely. The recorded sound is also a bit of an enigma, sounding rather uncomfortably close with a rather synthetic-sounding after-echo, so while the playing and singing is generally pleasant, the overall sound is less than satisfying and a little uncomfortable to listen to for any length of time. This is a pity, as the three singers bring a pleasing spontaneity to tracks such as the anonymous Passacaglia della vita, and the recorded sound seems to cramp their style. The inclusion of a contemporary piece by Caroline Shaw is also a bit of an indulgence – not long enough to establish the more adventurous sound world, but nonetheless a disruption to the Renaissance programme. All in all, I found this CD a bit of a hotch potch, and its idiosyncratic ambience was distinctly off-putting. This is a shame as the performances seem quite good and yet the captured sound is disappointing and the programme a bit unfocused.

Beth Beauchamp

Having worked as a professional musician, a music-educator, and the Executive Director of a number of non-profit arts organizations, Beth has over 10 years of experience in catering to the unique needs of artists. Beth believes that the talent, education, and skill-sets of her clients have inherent worth. As a passionate artist advocate, she aims to help her artists improve the quality of their own lives by encouraging them to honor the value of their own work, and by creating materials which allow them to champion their art with confidence. Equally interested in building community, Beth aims to create a roster of artists who are excited to support and collaborate together.