Early Italian Music
This compilation breaks through the thin wall often erected between the vocal and instrumental musics by focusing recordings on one or the other; in the historical area covered here, the notional partition is in no way soundproof. The common source of the recordings (Cologne Musica Antiqua) italicizes the point by presenting the approach to both fields by one distinguished group within a relatively short time-span. Indeed, one might occasionally feel that the instrumental performances, with their florid embellishments and deep-sighing lozenged notes, are a trifle more 'operatic' than the operas themselves. These versions of Il combattimento and the only surviving scene from Arianna have yet to be bettered, nor is there any pressing need for them to be, recognizing that great opera and 'grand' opera may be two different things. The singers are well cast and the closely matched 'hairpins', shared with the instrumentalists from the earliest bars, promise and deliver attentively close co-operation amongst the performers as a whole.
The violin music remains little better known than it was six years ago—and no less deserving of attention than it was then; it is played with spirit, passion and (like the vocal items) expressive freedom. Marini's Eco a tre violini is ''simplistic'', as DA remarked, but it is an endearing novelty, given effective 'space' in the recording—though less than when the same group played it as an encore in London's Queen Elizabeth Hall a few years ago. The recording per se is superb in all respects and the CD offers vividly immediate sound plus value for money: the vocal items occupy almost half the 68'23'' playing time.'