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GRAMOPHONE (11/2021)
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Well, this is rather gorgeous. The ‘Adriatic Voyage’ of this collaboration between Rory McCleery’s Marian Consort and Bojan Cicic´’s Illyria Consort refers to a diplomatic trip to Constantinople made in 1575 by the Venetian diplomat Giacomo Soranzo, a man of that moment in Italy, thanks in particular to his victorious exploits as a naval commander at the battle of Lepanto, which in 1571 had ended Turkish maritime ambitions in the Adriatic and was essentially the reason for this negotiating mission.

As for the musical programme, at its midway point sits the madrigal composed in Soranzo’s honour in 1573 by Bartolomeo Sorte, I superbi colossi: no translation needed to catch that one’s drift, and The Marian Consort’s reading of it here comes with appropriately adoring, elegantly lilting emphasis on the many repeats of Soranzo’s name. Either side, meanwhile, sit some of the musical spoils – much of it recorded here for the first time – of the quickening of artistic activity subsequently enjoyed by the towns along Soranzo’s route, as Turkish strategists set their sights elsewhere and relative peace descended.

Highlights are numerous, but I’ll start with Rory McCleery’s soft, bright, buoyant countertenor tones floating over the sunnily secular madrigal Donna ingrata by Gabriello Puliti (c1575/80-1642/43), a Tuscan-born friar who served in a number of Istrian towns including Pola (now Pula). This one has suavely merry theorbo support from David Miller as its constant accompanying thread, on to which further dancing instrumental interjections are dropped in as delicious little amuse-bouches, organist Steven Devine’s birdy flute song being a personal favourite.

Equally ear-pricking are the vocal blending and superglued-together ornamentations from tenors Edward Ross and Ben Durrant over the following motet, Bone Jesu by Vinko Jelic´ (Vinzenz Jelich, 1596-1636), a Rijeka-born Croatian who travelled in the opposite direction to Puliti, ending up in Alsace. Or, for a shot of The Marian Consort’s clean, lucidtextured unaccompanied sound by way of sophisticated early Italian Baroque polyphony, head to the gently reverent Ave Maria by Giulio Schiavetto (Julije Skjavetic´, fl1562-65). An instruments-only highlight, meanwhile, is the section of the programme given over to three sonatas published in Venice in 1628 by Tomaso Cecchino (Cecchini, c1583-1644), and in particular Sonata 8’s conversation between Cˇi∂ic´’s nimble violin and Gawain Glenton’s florid, dulcet-toned cornett ornamentations.

In short, this is a cornucopia of sacred and secular instrumental and vocal music, performed with arresting, period-evocative beauty, which highlights not just what a fascinating period this was for Italian-Slav cross-cultural blending but also how little most of us know about it. Charlotte Gardner

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