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Fieri Records

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Reviewer :
Fabrice Fitch

This ingenious programme weaves a continuous narrative by collating Marenzio’s settings of Guarini’s Il pastor fido. Ingenious because it offers a rationale for selecting pieces from this repertory based on criteria different from the usual ones, by book or by undifferentiated anthology. The resulting selection flits between three of Marenzio’s later books; the blanks in the story are filled in, equally ingeniously, through an animation by the artist Eleanor Meredith, which is accessible online. (One recalls I Fagiolini’s similarly enterprising approach to the question of programming.) Another result of the choice is the fair number of texts familiar from other settings. A musical arc based on an external narrative (that is, one not intended by the composer, however clearly related the subject matter) is no guarantee of coherence but here it works very well. By the end of the penultimate track, Anima cruda si, a clear sense of closure is achieved.


The Fieri Consort, a mixed ensemble of soloists, is new to me, although not to these pages. It is a compact group, whose members sing with unanimity and purpose, as one hears near the beginning in Deh Tirsi mio gentil, when Marenzio focuses on chordal textures, or in Se tu, dolce, which has lovely moments of stillness. Their general approach sees them stick closer to the tactus than some of their Italian counterparts, but never slavishly (Care mie selve illustrates this nicely), and their diction is commendably clear. They also have a nice sense of pacing and the articulation of sections, both of which play well with Marenzio’s textural contrasts and sense of architecture. One might have wished the drama to play out more strikingly still, but here and there niggles of intonation rob chords and dissonances of their power to bite. Though noticeable, they do not fundamentally affect the underlying sense of security and thoughtful insight until the very last track, a coda to the narrative, which ends on an unwontedly tentative note.

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