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This is a fascinating disc. La Gioannina is a duo comprising chordophones and triple harp, and Orazio Michi ‘dell’ Arpa’ was born near Naples in the 1590s and died in 1641 near Rome. A harpist of renown, presumably trained in the Neapolitan tradition of harpistry, he was (exceptionally well paid) in the services first of Cardinal Montalto and subsequently at least four further cardinals. His bequest of his music library to an oratory perpetuating San Filippo Neri’s tradition of spiritual exercises to musical accompaniment, and the fact that his formative years were spent under Montalto, who promoted an expressive Roman vocal style accommodating the Neapolitan villanelle and ornamented madrigal, help to explicate his dramatically taut devotional vocal compositions. Bitter and gruesome sonnets on the crucifixion of Christ are delivered superbly by Françoise Masset, who is perfectly prepared – quite rightly – to sacrifice vocal beauty for dramatic fidelity, unerringly finding the emotionally charged core of the text. The liner notes are instructive and carefully written, and La Gioannina intersperse Michi’s vocal items with music by Trabaci, Frescobaldi, Kapsberger, Priuli and Macque.

Catherine Groom Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing