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Italian label Tactus continues to record as much obscure Italian early music as possible with high instrumental standards but a curiously laissez-faire attitude to vocal quality. For La Historia del Beato San Martino, 1558, the story of St Martin is ebulliently related by a clutch of voices and instruments from La Cappella Musicale di San Giacomo Maggiore, Bologna. One of the voices can sing; the others should stick to playing the colourful collection of instruments which enliven this world premiere recording of largely anonymous 16th-century material. Similarly rare is the Columbano Psalms for Six Voices from La Cappella Musicale della Cattedrale di Vercelli, a vocal octet directed by their priest/maestro in earnestly respectable performances of psalm settings for Vespers in the manner prescribed by the Council of Trent. These world premiere recordings from the composer’s own cathedral are sung at A=435, ‘Lombard pitch’, transposed down to fit the probable organ pitch of the day. A hop across the Mediterranean to Spain reveals a new Iberian ensemble also aspiring to high standards, Coro Victoria, in a programme of assorted motets and Mass sections by Alonso Lobo. Some wonderful solo consort singing impresses, but the resonantly toned choir lacks polish. Nevertheless, I’ll be watching out for more from a group with the potential to bring a truly exciting Spanish sound to their rich treasury of polyphony.

REBECCA TAVENER Read the full review on Agora Classica

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