Kapsberger, Mazzocchi, Michi, Luigi Rossi &Landi

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Kapsberger,Luigi Rossi &Landi,Mazzocchi,Michi
LABELS: Channel
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Splendore Di Roma
WORKS: Works by Kapsberger, Mazzocchi, Michi, Luigi Rossi &Landi
PERFORMER: Johannette Zomer (soprano)Fred Jacobs (theorbo)
CATALOGUE NO: CCS 19998
This is a rare and privileged glimpse into the private world of early 17th-century Roman society where women could perform, not in public, but in the apartments of ecclesiastical nobles and elite ‘academies’. Johannette Zomer brings to 14 arias a remarkably versatile voice: her very first note a desolate white sound, then vibrato is subtly varied in width and speed as a string-player colours notes. She’s artful with timbre too, creating an expressive range from simple naive joy, through ardent passion to hollow despair.

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The literal English translations are an essential aid to listening in music so indissolubly married to words; every nuance of meaning is illustrated, from swirling birds to broken hearts – of which there are many. Fred Jacobs’s theorbo accompaniment includes some stunning harmonic tensions in his realisations of the skeletal figured bass – scholarship bringing performance to life.

High points include one of the innumerable ‘Dido laments’ of the period and, in contrast, a strophic song over a cleverly contrived teasing metre (with, for some unexplained reason, three verses omitted). Jacobs also contributes five contrasting solo pieces, all by Johann Hieronymus Kapsberger.

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Such an intimate recording picks up moments of hardness in Zomer’s voice, and Jacobs’s fingers hiss along the strings. Otherwise, highly commended – both for performance and for revealing new repertoire. George Pratt