In his notes Colin Tilney says that the use of small rooms advocated by Caccini and his colleagues helped the audience to hear the words. Well, a recording heard in one's own music room represents a small enough space, but the listener to this disc will often find the printed texts invaluable; Julianne Baird seems to sacrifice some clarity to the beauty of her musical lines, the 'bel-ness' of her canto. What emerges from a disc is the joint product of the performance and its recording; here the acoustic of the latter does not always help the clarity of the former, and must take a share of the blame. Hers is a glorious voice and a period-stylish one, but a sharper-edged diction (a thing for which we of Anglo-Saxon stock have to strive consciously!) would not have been unwelcome; compare, for example, Baird's delivery of
So much for the negative, dwarfed by the many positives: Affekt, a German 'invention', was marvellously exploited by Italians; and here by Baird, particularly touchingly in Musica dolce (with its beguiling echos) and Strozzi's substantial Lagrime mie (two of the five otherwise unrecorded vocal items). Natural-sounding mesa di voce, nimbly executed fioriture and responsive tonal shading are some of the vital elements in these indispensable performances, whose ebb and flow Tilney follows with admirable empathy—as well as punctuating the programme with three well chosen solos, stylishly played on a generously resonant (anonymous) eighteenth-century Italian harpsichord. Accuse me of nit-picking in the matter of the diction if you like, but don't let anyone accuse you of bypassing the many rich delights of this recording. Musica dolce indeed.'