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GRAMOPHONE (11/2021)
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Reviewer: David Vickers

It appears that Barbara Strozzi did not compose much sacred music other than her Sacri musicali affetti, Op 5, published in Venice in 1655. Aurata Fonte present the first complete recording of the collection, which consists of 14 motets for solo soprano or alto accompanied by basso continuo, many of them addressed to specific saints. It is unclear if these were originally intended for liturgical use – it is possible Strozzi sang and accompanied them herself in other contexts, such as meetings of the Accademia degli Unisoni, the Venetian artistic circle founded by her father at least in part to provide a platform for his daughter’s musical accomplishments.

The motets are shared between three soloists, accompanied judiciously by viola da gamba, harpsichord and organ; it is surprising that theorbo is not considered as an option for some of them. Countertenor Andrea Arrivabene’s singing in the two alto motets is somewhat hooty and uneven, albeit with an air of touching sincerity. The remainder of the spoils are divided equally in half between sopranos Miho Kamiya and Anna Simboli, both articulate and stylish in general, and the former a touch steelier and sometimes strained in comparison to the light-toned agility and precision of the latter. These broadly enjoyable but mildly lethargic performances do not capture the beguiling sensuality and vivacity that characterise Maria Cristina Kiehr and Concerto Soave’s album containing half of the Op 5 motets (Harmonia Mundi, 1995). Nevertheless, it is long overdue that we finally have a technically capable and artistically diligent account of the complete set – including premiere recordings of ‘Erumpebat’ (addressed to St Benedict), ‘Oleum effusum est’, and ‘Iubilemus exultemus’ (for St Anthony). Tactus’s adequate booklet note is translated into English but the Latin sung texts are not – for these, and all sorts of stimulating information and editions of the composer’s complete works, we are lucky to have the fabulous online resource barbarastrozzi.com, the brainchild of Strozzi scholar Candace Magner.


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