WORKS: 17th-century Italian Motets dedicated to the Virgin Mary: Bassani, Casati, Caprioli, Cavalli, Colonna, Frescobaldi, Mattioli, Grandi, Legrenzi, Rigatti, Sances
PERFORMER: Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (contralto); Ensemble Artaserse
CATALOGUE NO: 693 9072
Marian worship, intense, often sensual, combined with the new dramatic monody of 17th-century Italy produced some extraordinarily passionate music. This cleverly-designed programme takes 12 motets from 1618 to 1690, including unfamiliar composers such as Caprioli and Mattioli, and demonstrates the extraordinary range of emotions stimulated by the cult of the Virgin Mary.
Philippe Jaroussky sings them with great sensitivity, joined in two of them by Marie-Nicole Lemieux’s matching but contrasting female voice. They’re accompanied by single strings and a colourful continuo of theorbo and Baroque guitar, lirone and second theorbo, and organ/harpsichord.
Two instrumental items (one a splendidly sprightly Sonata by Bassani) lend further variety to a potentially monochrome effect; Jaroussky’s distinctive sound is rather unvaried, though he creates magical contrasts between full voice and restrained tone – Alessandro Grandi’s ‘O intemerata’ is striking in the close interplay of two violins and Jaroussky’s hushed adoration of the Virgin.
Other high points include ‘O quam suavis’ by Cavalli, a leading opera composer of his age, and an extended virtual cantata – three arias and recitatives – by the Bolognese composer Colonna.
Clearly recorded, if a touch closely, in a beautiful church acoustic, this is a most attractive disc of refreshingly new repertoire. George Pratt