ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Accendo
WORKS: Music from the time of Claudio Monteverdi: works by Merula, Picchi, Cima, Buonamente, Banchieri, Mortaro, Grandi,
PERFORMER: Mark Chambers (countertenor); English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble/Robert Howarth (harpsichord), etc
CATALOGUE NO: DXL 913
It’s remarkable how the addition of a couple of violins and voice to the now conventional cornet/sackbut ensemble enriches their available repertoire. There are several wind canzonas here, played with polish and disarming ease. But their tendency to sameness – of characteristic rhythmic opening, fast counterpoint, crisply tongued chords – is greatly relieved when they are contrasted with the striking antiphony of two violins set against four trombones in a Sonata by Buonamente, and above all the voice of Mark Chambers. He is one of the astonishing new breed of high countertenors who can knock off a soprano top A before breakfast. Three motets by Alessandro Grandi are riveting. There’s more variety with two harpsichord pieces. One is by Byrd, tenuously drawn into this programme otherwise confined to Italy and Spain and a 30-year time-span, by sharing a tune with the Venetian Antonio Mortaro.
The booklet notes (occasionally more enthusiastic than coherent), dwell on music’s power to raise the passions – ‘Accendo’ refers to kindling, arousing, inflaming… The Ensemble lifts this music to an intensely expressive level, yet with taut intonation, audibly adjusted as cadences settle, and thoughtful ebb and flow of contrapuntal lines. The sound, recorded in a London church, is exemplary. George Pratt