Music in the time of Velázquez
La Romanesca is a recently formed Spanish group which bears witness to the extraordinary surge of interest in early music in Spain, as does the emergence of Glossa, the new early music label for which this disc was recorded. Spanish ensembles such as El aire espanol, La Colombina and now La Romanesca are quickly establishing themselves as mainstream international contenders in the specialist field of early music, and they have much to offer. The standard of performance is generally high and the interpretations are often highly distinctive, offering fresh insights into music which is itself rapidly becoming more familiar thanks to the many recordings of the past few years.
On this recording of Spanish instrumental and theatre music from the seventeenth century, both the instrumental playing and the solo singing are of a high order. Soprano Marta Almajano has a clear and well focused voice, that is both fuller and more nuanced with a wider range of expression than that of Montserrat Figueras; the singing is also less idiosyncratic but equally idiomatic. Almajano is at her most expressive, perhaps, in Jose Marin's
Both Jose Miguel Moreno on vihuela and baroque guitar and Paolo Pandolfo on gamba are technically assured and imaginative players, and lead the rest of the team (Nuria Llopis on harp and Juan Carlos de Mulder on theorbo) in performances that are full of rhythmic zest and imagination. The music itself is charming and dramatic by turn, and certainly bears repeated listening. It is generally less harmonically adventurous than Purcell (despite some telling chromaticisms in Marin's Aquella sierra nevada), but has a cogent harmonic idiom of its own and is full of rhythmic interest.'