The Queen’s Music: Italian Vocal Duets and Trios
Anonymous Parlate per me [2:02]
Luigi ROSSI (c.1597-1653) Tu sarai sempre [2:24]
Antonio CESTI (1623-1669) Gia son morto [3:05]; Dite o Cieli [1:34]
Anonymous Pian piano mio core [2:43]
Girolamo Alessandro FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643) Toccate e partite d'intavolatura di cimbalo et organo, libro primo: Toccata ottava [4:04]
Giacomo CARISSIMI (1605-74) Sciolto havean dall’alte sponde (I naviganti) [12:56]
Girolamo Alessandro FRESCOBALDI In partitura il primo libro delle canzoni: Canzona settima detta la Superba (o Tuccina) (arr. for cello and harpsichord) [3:36]
Luigi ROSSI O Cieli pieta [3:38]; Lasso benche mi fugga [4:40]
Girolamo Alessandro FRESCOBALDI Toccate e partite d'intavolatura di cimbalo et organo, libro primo: Toccata nona [5:27]
Luigi ROSSI Pene che volete [2:06]; Pietà, spietati lumi [2:49]
Anonymous Partitevi da me [2:13]
Luigi ROSSI Vorrei scoprirti [2:42]
Anonymous Occhi Belli [2:14]
Girolamo Alessandro FRESCOBALDI Toccate e partite d’intavolatura di cimbalo et organo, libro secondo: Toccata seconda [3:41]
Anonymous E’ di ragion [4:18]
Emma Kirkby, Susanne Rydén (sopranos); Peter Harvey (baritone); Mikarl Bellini (counter-tenor); Mime Yamahiro Brinkmann (cello); Lars Ulrik Mortensen (harpsichord)
rec. Länna Church, Sweden, May 2008. DDD.
Booklet includes texts and translations.
BIS BIS-CD-1715 [68:16]
All that Emma Kirkby’s many fans – I’m a long-standing member – need to know is that her voice is still holding up extremely well at an age which I’m too gallant to mention, but when many sopranos have fizzled out. She enjoys excellent support from Susanne Rydén, whose voice is just different enough to be distinguishable from and to blend with Kirkby’s in duets and ensembles. The singing and playing of the other performers here is also predictably first-rate. This is matched up with excellent recording, short but informative notes and texts with idiomatic translations. You may purchase The Queen’s Music with confidence.
The programme, derived from a manuscript in the library of Christ Church, Oxford, and connected with the court of the Swedish Queen Christina prior to her abdication in 1654, is ideal for Kirkby and her collaborators. The music is all attractive: it’s interesting to speculate to what extent Christina’s love of this kind of Italian music led her to Rome. The most familiar name among the composers of the vocal items, and the one most frequently represented on this recording, is that of Luigi Rossi, closely followed by that of Carissimi, who contributes the longest item here, I Naviganti, the Sailors.
Most of the music is for two sopranos, but there are other combinations to provide a variety, including duets for soprano and baritone, on some of which Kirkby features, with Rydén on others. The variety is further strengthened by the inclusion of four keyboard works by Frescobaldi, one of them rearranged for cello and harpsichord for even greater variety. Lars Ulrik Mortensen performs these in a manner likely to make you want more – in which case, you can’t do better than to turn to Richard Lester’s unfolding series on Nimbus – see review.
Rossi and Carissimi were connected with the early development of opera and much of their music has an operatic intensity. I Naviganti in particular, for two sopranos and baritone, is reminiscent of the semi-operatic Florentine Intermedii of 1589, the splendid EMI recording of which, directed by Andrew Parrott, seems unfortunately to have fallen out of the catalogue, though a later version directed by Skip Sempé is still available as a download from and on CD from in the US. I Naviganti is not only the longest work in the collection; it’s also the highlight as far as I’m concerned.
The Queen’s Music offers 68 minutes of sheer delight, but I can report an even longer and equally delectable programme. Emma Kirkby also appears with Jakob Lindberg (lute) on a recent BIS CD of earlier music, equally divided between Purcell and Dowland, Orpheus in England, BIS-CD-1725. As on The Queen’s Music, instrumental tracks are interspersed among the vocal items; nobody does them better or proves a better accompanist in the songs than Lindberg.
You may already have some of Kirkby’s earlier recordings of this repertoire, for example with Anthony Rooley on a most inexpensive Virgin Veritas 2-CD set (5624102, around £7.50), but the partnership with Lindberg is – predictably – at least as fruitful. I listened to this recording via the Naxos Music Library in more than acceptable sound, so the CD – or the lossless download from, for $8.81 – here – can be endorsed with confidence. and the Naxos Music Library both offer the booklet. Essential listening, both.
Brian Wilson
Essential listening for Emma Kirkby’s many fans: if you’re not one already, this may well win you over.