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Apparently some composers are like London buses: prior to the release of these two discs within months of each other last year, Zamboni’s sole surviving lute collection had been recorded and released similarly close in time back in 2014. For a composer about whom we know very little (he gets one paragraph in Grove) and by whom very little music has come down to us (apart from the aforementioned lute collection, his Op.1, there are two books of four-part madrigals), Giovanni Zamboni seems rather to be having a moment in the sun.

Simone Vallerotonda is a young Italian lutenist and guitarist with an already impressive CV, whose debut solo disc received a glowing review in these pages a few years ago [September– November 2014]. Styling Zamboni as the ‘last Roman’ because his lute works were the last Italian pieces to be printed in tablature (published 1718) – thus marking an end to the long and distinguished line of lutenist-composers who had been based in the city – Vallerotonda gives a sparkling performance of six of the 11 sonatas in the collection, showcasing the strong rhythmic drive of the dance movements and the rich harmonic language. That said, the music and the performances have many moments of finesse; Sonata 11, in its range of moods, is perhaps the best starting point to get a sense of Zamboni’s style. I only hope that Vallerotonda is planning to record the remaining sonatas. if the quality of this initial offering is anything to go by.

Zamboni’s madrigals also have the air of later generations looking quizically, but also fondly, back at the past and trying to replicate what they see; the madrigals on Faenza’s disc date from 1755 – a good 150 years after the golden age of the form (Monteverdi’s fifth book of madrigals, written in response to Artusi’s attacks, was printed in 1605). The singing of the four voices here is strong and impassioned, but at times is overwhelmed and overshadowed by the extravagant continuo team (archlute, theorbo, guitar, bass viol, harpsichord and double harp); and Zamboni’s cause – so eloquently put in his lute music – is slightly hindered by more workman-like vocal writing.

Adrian Horsewood Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2017 - ©Rhinegold Publishing