King's Singers La Dolce Vita
Renaissance Naples was a place where, in a pre-disco age—and when it may have been safer to walk its streets after dark than it now is—music played a vital role in la dolce vita. The scene is depicted in an artfully conceived montage of vocal and instrumental items, and since Naples was ruled on and off over a long period, some Spanish music finds a rightful place in the picture. In the vocal pieces The King's Singers meld beautifully, with flawless intonation and incisive diction, and zestfully in the jollier songs, as Nola's Chi la gagliarda and the anonymous Catalina, Catalina!, but without the raucous 'peasant' edge of Musica Reservata. Audible intakes of breath punctuate several items; Toscanini was wont to rehearse choirs in the art of standing up and sitting down pianissimo—would that someone might impart this kind of inspiration during recording sessions! Volatile swings of mood, such as befit a good Italian, traverse various aspects of the life of the city: love, lust, laughter and piety, and railing against gossip-mongers and ''thieving crones''. There is too the instrumental perfection and variety we have come to expect from Tragicomedia, never at a loss for a differently beguiling texture: instead of Kapsberger's now-familiar crackpot Colascione we have Piccinini's send-up of the same instrument, this time with added tambourine. Mudarra's Harp Fantasia comes in a new and charming guise, the vihuela joined by lirone and harp (Spanish, of course). Willaert's O dolce vita, the programme's signature tune, appears near the beginning as an instrumental piece, and later on in its vocal form. The standards of annotation and recording match those of the performances. I won't beat about the bush—just empty your piggy bank and pay your nearest dealer for a copy.'