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This is a deeply compelling illustration, in both sound and pictures (Margret Köll has worked with photographer and filmmaker Armin Linke to document the locations in which the Neapolitan ‘capella reale’ performed during the era of Spanish dominance over the Naples, making for very fine booklet photography), of the harp culture prevalent in the kingdom in the 17th century.

The repertoire is put into context by the inlay notes, which describe the dexterity of the best-known harpist of the 16th century Giallonardo dell’Arpa (whose precision was thought old-fashioned by Carlo Gesualdo in 1594) and the charming but lightweight playing of Adriana Basile in the early 1600s, who ultimately gave up the harp for the easier Spanish guitar to entertain her audiences, before going on to describe the later virtuoso courtly tradition where the harpist was expected to unite free musical imagination with skills in counterpoint, division-making and ensemble playing.

Such harpists, masters and mistresses of the double harp included Orazio Michio, Luigi Rossi and Lucrezia Urbani. Their repertoire forms the back-bone of this recital: toccatas, diferencias and dances by Giovanni Maria Trabaci, Ascanio Mayone, Giovanni de Macque, Cabezòn and Ribayaz. Very pleasing it is too; Köll is a superb harpist. Giovanni de Macque’s quirky Durezze, e ligature in particular features some wonderful manipulation of harpistic light and shade.

Catherine Groom Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing