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As much of this column is devoted to secular music, I’m glad to have possibly the finest renaissance ‘cross-over’ work to act as a bridge, the Lagrime di San Pietro by Lassus. The seven male voices of Gallicantus bring a characteristic word-sensitivity and profoundly plangent expression to these ever-astonishing, intimate vignettes of personal remorse. Fresh, compelling, beautifully toned and paced with magnificent legato and faultless Italian, it’s also superbly recorded – altogether a sublime listening experience.

Genuine Italians offer the recorded premiere of il Trionfo di Dori, published in Venice in 1592, an anthology of madrigals by Croce, Vecchi, Striggio, Marenzio, Gastoldi et al, and the Gruppo Vocale Àrsi & Tèsi combine creamily toned, technically refined individuals but without, alas, entirely settling differences in tuning and temperament. The panache of their delivery makes these performances, at their best, arresting. Directed by their bass, his vocal diffidence speaks of anxiety, perhaps, born of a need to concentrate rather than sing out? They might learn much from …

… a most distinguished bass, directing mostly without singing, Peter Kooij, who has encouraged the highest excellence in all departments from the singers and instrumentalists of the German consort Sette Voci in tremendously engaging, convincing and refined performances of Il primo Libro de Madrigali by Heinrich Schütz. Here is a masterclass in the declamation of Italian madrigals: they sing each phrase as though their lives depend on it, ensemble and tuning are exemplary and the recording is exquisitely clear.

You might expect similar standards from the King’s Consort in their exploration of a lovelorn Monteverdi in Heaven and Earth, a ten-year-old recording only now on public release. The playing, whether from brass, strings, or continuo, is truly glorious, matched by technically impressive singing. Soprano Carolyn Sampson is on fine form throughout and a magisterial Sarah Connolly emotes through a heart-rending ‘A Dio, Roma’ from L’Incoronazione di Poppea. There’s a lively presence and depth to the sound but the finesse of the whole is marred by a driven, almost hectoring, tension imposed on Zefiro torna and Chiome d’oro.

REBECCA TAVENER Read the full review on Agora Classica

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