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GRAMOPHONE (December / 2017)
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Challenge Classics

Code-barres / Barcode : 608917276022


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Reviewer: Lindsay Kemp

Despite the title and repertoire, there is no singing on this well-chosen debut CD release by the Spanish ensemble L’Estro d’Orfeo. Their pitch, of course, is to focus on the lyrical qualities of 17th-century Italian instrumental music by transferring vocal lines to cornett (in an aria from Cavalli’s opera La Calisto and Strozzi’s cantata L’Eraclito amoroso) or to strings (Monteverdi’s madrigal Altri canti d’amor), and to back that up with instrumental pieces with vocal origins such as Rognoni’s viola bastarda-style diminutions on Rore’s madrigal Anchor che col partire (an impressively free-spirited break-out track, this, for gamba player Rodney Prada) or violinist/director Leonor de Lera’s own stylish (if slightly frantic) diminutions on the ‘Lamento d’Apollo’ from Cavalli’s Gli amori d’Apollo e di Dafne. Clearly love is also a theme here, though the programme is satisfyingly filled out with a selection of short sonatas, canzonas and things.  

This is lovely music from a popular part of the Baroque repertoire, and it receives sympathetically intimate playing from a group who achieve involving results by keeping their vocal and amorous inspirations in mind throughout. Playing at A=466Hz ‘Venetian’ pitch, the six-piece ensemble generate a sound that is bright and keen, without ever becoming shrill or excessively taut. Josué Meléndez’s cornettplaying is deliciously fluid and sensitive, and the well-matched violins of de Lera and Lucia Giraudo are quick-footed and silvery in the sonatas by Marini and Uccellini. It all makes for a thoroughly enjoyable programme, and if it is a rather short one, well there’s no law that says 70 minutes is always the best length. Certainly (and in a good way) I was left wanting more.  

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