Con Gratia, Et Maniera

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bassano,Bovicelli,Mainerio,Maschera,Rognoni,Salaverde,Taeggio & Virgiliano
LABELS: Stradivarius
WORKS: Vocal works by Bassano, Bovicelli, Mainerio, Maschera, Rognoni, Salaverde, Taeggio & Virgiliano
PERFORMER: Michael Chance (countertenor), Monica Huggett (violin), Bruce Dickey (cornetto); Galatea/Paul Beier
CATALOGUE NO: STR 33822

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Mainerio, Maschera, Rognoni, Taeggio and Virgiliano – they might not be at the top of your favourite composers’ list but, although their names sound obscure, their music is beguiling.

These vocal and instrumental works, dating from the late 16th and early 17th centuries, synthesise simplicity and sophistication: popular tunes of the day or of the recent past are elaborated with embellishments and improvisatory ‘diminutions’ (breaking up a melody with increasingly rapid and intricate figurations).

Despite its highly wrought nature, much of this repertoire has a wistful quality, infused with the melancholy spirit that permeated contemporary art works from Dürer to Dowland to the ‘Melancholy Dane’, Hamlet.

Drawing together rigorous musicological research and virtuoso performances, this project impresses and delights. Countertenor Michael Chance achieves, at his finest, the ethereal sound of ‘the organ of the soul’, though his voice occasionally strains in its upper reaches.

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The plangent eloquence and dare-devil bravura of Bruce Dickey’s cornetto playing would charm the skin off a snake, and the other instrumentalists of the ensemble Galatea respond to the music’s sinuous lines with apt gratia e maniera. Set in a glossy church acoustic, the recording is acutely judged, capturing the subtlest details of this subtle art. Kate Bolton