> I Fagiolini Insalata [GPJ]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb-International

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Nicolas GOMBERT (c.1500-56) – J’ay mis mon cuer
Mateo da FLECHA (1481-c.1553) – La Bomba (excerpt)
Sigismondo D’INDIA (c.1582-1629) – Dispieta pietate
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643) – Vago augeletto
ANON 16th century – Hey trolly loly lo
Clément JANEQUIN (c.1485-1558) – La Chasse (part2)
Don Fernando de los INFANTAS (1534-c.1610) – Loquebantur variis linguis
MONTEVERDI – Audi coelum
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695) – Sweeter than roses
J.S. BACH (1685-1750) – Singet dem Herrn (3rd mvt)
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) – Dieu! qu’il la fait bon regarder
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976) – A death
Trad. arr. TIPPETT – Early one morning
Roderick WILLIAMS (b.1965) – Is 5 (sonnet no.2)
William BROOKS (b.1943) – Nellie was a lady
SONDHEIM arr. WILLIAMS – Losing my mind

I Fagiolini/Robert Hollingworth, with Elizabeth Kenny (theorbo), David Burchell (harpsichord/organ) Fiona Duncan and Timothy Cronin(baroque violins) David Clasen (baritone)
Recorded at the church of St.Silas, Chalk Farm, London, February 5th-6th 1994
METRONOME MET 1004-01 [63:52]


Experience Classicsonline

Why should a vocal ensemble be named after a green vegetable? This and other questions occupied me as I began to listen to this CD. Perhaps all the singers in the group are vegans; vocalists are after all famed for their pure and unsullied life-style.

I visited their web-site for enlightenment, but none did I find.

Suffice it to say that, putting such vexations on one side, this particular mixed salad gives great pleasure, dressed or otherwise. The breadth of repertoire tackled here is stunning; Janequin and de Flecha from the 15th century are found side-by-side with Sondheim and whipper-snappers like Roderick Williams. This, and the fact that I Fagiolini perform the various styles so confidently, makes this disc most rewarding and entertaining.

There is plenty of humour, too, in particular in the outrageous Hey Trolly Loly lo, complete with appalling Mummerset accents, and in the blacker comedy of Britten’s A Death from Sacred and Profane, one of his last works. Along the way, we have the vivid word-painting of Janequin’s hunt, the languorous dissonances of Infantas’ Pentecost motet Loquebantur variis linguis, and the ravishing sensuality of Debussy’s Orléans setting.

The two contemporary settings, one by Roderick Williams, the other by William Brooks, are both well worth hearing. The Williams contains many amusing descriptive touches, while Brooks goes for vocal pyrotechnics plus stylistic parody, touching on Gospel and various varieties of close harmony singing – huge fun, and followed by some unironic close harmony in a simply gorgeous version of Sondheim’s Losing my Mind.

This kind of free-ranging repertoire obviously brings to mind such pioneering groups as the Kings Singers and Swingle II; comparisons are odious, but suffice it to say that I Fagiolini can live comfortably with that sort of competition. In any case, the sweetness of the women’s voices provide them with something that the Kings Singers could never have, and it’s arguable that the quality of the individual voices is higher than those of Swingle II even in its heyday. There is no untoward use of close-up in the recording here; the voices sound as natural as possible, allowing the fine internal balance of the group to come across.

In truth, this is a superb issue, which will satisfy a wide range of tastes; might it fall between several stools? I don’t know, but I don’t think so, and I certainly hope not, because everybody who loves top-notch ensemble singing will lap this up. And one other thing; I couldn’t sign off without mentioning the very beautiful solo singing of countertenor Robin Blaze in Sweeter than Roses, sensitively accompanied by Elizabeth Kenny - worth the money all on its own.

Gwyn Parry-Jones


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