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Notwithstanding that the very subject matter of Holy Week and Easter, with its principal feminine dramatis personae in the form of the three Marys, presages a high level of scope in any case for the introduction of a theatrical note into conventual composition, the musical range and dramatic impetus present in these performances by Cappella Artemisia is quite extraordinary.

Some names here are well-known: Adriano Banchieri, Claudio Monteverdi, even Chiara Margarita Cozzolani is becoming more so, but many others are a great deal more obscure and richly deserve this superb reading. Aided and abetted by a team of plucked, keyed and string bassi, and occasional traversi, the all-female vocalists (predominantly native Italian speakers) work in various permutations, and when en masse produce an appealingly rich sound, balancing soloistic lyricism with a blend that comes from deference not to each other but to the hierarchy of tactus and to crisp enunciation. There’s a splendid example of this blend in the final track, Maria Xaveria Perucona’s Cessate tympana, where the massed consonants fizz with great verve. Rosa Giacinta Badalla’s Silentio, on the vanquishing of Hell at the Resurrection, shows a first-rate rhetorical command by the soloist and deftly pliant harpistry, giving way to a lyrical vocal line and energised, light-touched string bass – a joy. Wholeheartedly recommended.

Catherine Groom Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing