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For 40 years, the Hilliard Ensemble’s exemplary artistry, musicianship and creativity have never faltered. This is the first of several CDs to be released during 2014, the group’s last year together. It is titled after Roger Marsh’s Il Cor Tristo, a setting of cantos 32 and 33 from Dante’s Inferno interspersed with pieces by the16th-century Bernardo Pissano and Jacques Acadelt in which Petrarch love poems wallow in their own misery over the ironies of love. The music dances, the voices soar and the Hilliards are in their element. This is a very different world from Dante’s depiction of Hell. Marsh captures the chilling, frightening darkness with great skill, the narrative using some of the techniques of the early madrigal composers, isolating critical words where voices separate and then come together. It is cleverly exclamatory and unsettling, the repetitive phrasing sticking in the mind, and the scenario is brilliantly depicted by the singers.

SHIRLEY RATCLIFFE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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