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Heroines of Love and Loss
Giovanni Girolamo KAPSBERGER (1580-1651)
Toccata arpeggiate (1604) [2:31]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Bonduca, Z.574: Oh! lead me to some peaceful gloom (1695) [3:56]
Dido and Aeneas, Z.626: Dido’s Lament (1688) [5:04]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Cello sonata in G minor, RV 42 (pub. 1740) [15:50]
John BENNET (1575 – after 1614)
Venus’ Birds (pub. 1583) [3:19]
Barbara STROZZI (1619-1677)
Cantate, ariette e duetti, Op.2: L’Eraclito amoroso (pub. 1651) [7:26]
Diporti di Euterpe, Op.7: Lamento: Lagrime mie (pub. 1659) [7:57]
Alessandro PICCININI (1566-1638)
Intavolatura di liuto, et di chitarrone Libro primo Ciaccona (1623) [2:49]
Claudia SESSA (1570-1619)
Occhi io vissi di voi (pub. 1623) [2:06]
The Willow Song [3:20]
O death, rock me asleep (1536) [5:00]
Francesca CACCINI (1587-1640)
Il primo libro delle Musiche, Firenze: Lasciatemi qui solo (pub. 1618) [7:29]
Lucrezia Orsina VIZZANA (1590-1662)
O Magnum Mysterium (pub. 1623) [3:24]
Ruby Hughes (soprano)
Mime Yamahiro Brinkmann (cello)
Jonas Nordberg (theorbo, lute, archlute)
rec. Länna Church, Sweden, April-May 2016
Texts and translations included
BIS BIS-2248 SACD [71:28]

If love and lamentation as expressed through the medium of the female voice is the principal theme of this disc, then the growing emancipation of women composers is a strong subtext. Thus, whilst the programming of Dido’s Lament exemplifies the former element, the inclusion of music by Barbara Strozzi, Lucrezia Vizzana and Claudia Sessa supports the second programming element. There is a sense that the assigning of female grief by male composers is counterpointed by a woman’s own direct experience, largely unmediated by the man’s gaze. If that sounds too didactic a premise, the reality proves very different.

The disc works like a recital with vocal items interspersed with instrumental ones. In this context, the breaking up of Vivaldi’s Cello Sonata in G minor throughout the disc may prove irksome to those who would like to listen to Mime Yamahiro Brinkman and Jonas Nordberg’s fine performance all the way through., One can program these things, if one wishes, although it is doubtless wiser to see the broader programmatic concept at work. It was therefore a thoughtful decision to open with Kapsberger’s dizzying Toccata Arpeggiata, for solo theorbo, in which its wave-like movement strikes the right note of sombre relentlessness. Piccinni’s Ciaccona offers an equally compact and compelling instrumental statement, an analogue to the vocal melancholy to be encountered elsewhere.

Ruby Hughes sings Purcell’s Oh! Lead Me To Some Peaceful Gloom. When it quotes Dowland’s Lachrymae, it both amplifies the melancholy and also allows Purcell to situate himself in direct lineage from one of his great predecessors. Hughes’s soprano is both full of textual clarity and tonal purity in John Bennet’s Venus’ Birds. She is no less accomplished when it comes to the more florid, Venetian and Monteverdi-leaning drama of Strozzi’s L’Eraclito Amoroso, its passionate operatic lines full of leaps and rich harmonies. Her Lagrime Mie offers huge grief-laden melismas.

Caccini’s Lasciatemi Qui Solo is a strophic song, a long meditation on love and loss, full of long-breathed melancholic dissonances. Similarly, Vizzana’s O Magnum Mysterium takes things post-Monteverdi stylistically, and is replete with a succession of joyful Hallelujahs. The anonymous Willow Song with its equally anonymous text is richly textured, whilst O Death, Rock Me Asleep, attributed to Anne Boleyn, is a deeply affecting compact self-requiem.

With the expansive church acoustic, concept and execution alike prove admirable.

Jonathan Woolf



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