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GRAMOPHONE (12/2014)
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Reviewer:  Fabrice Fitch


Gualberto Magli (d1625) was one of the great voices of his age. In 1608 he sang at the wedding celebrations for the Medici heir to the grand duchy of Florence; this was one of the high points of his career but the previous year he had participated in an event of greater musical significance, the first performance of Monteverdi’s Orfeo at Mantua in 1607. This musical portrait devotes ample space to both events, the former represented by the solos for Music, Hope and Proserpina, and the latter by selections by the Caccinis and Sigismondo d’India. Some lighter pieces complete the programme, each having some credible connection with Magli’s life and career.


A few of them reprise texts better known from elsewhere, including a ‘new’ setting of Solo e pensoso by a living composer but credibly rendered in the style of the period. There’s even the obligatory echo piece in the shape of Montesardo’s Hor che la nott’ombrosa. In short, a most engaging and enterprising programme, which ticks all the boxes (or very nearly so) with easy charm.


The countertenor Raffaele Pé has a bright, lucid timbre that cuts often to the heart of things, confidence and athleticism in the high register, and a hint of sweetness lower down (though at times also a hint of fragility near at the very bottom of the range). In the Monteverdi the articulation of the text is not always as clear as one might wish. D’India’s Lamento di Giasone is perhaps the set’s highlight on the dramatic side, and Francesca Caccini’s Dispiegate, guance amate on the lighter. But a special feature of the recital is the contribution of the two continuo players, who establish themselves as equal partners throughout, and whose contribution can be savoured on its own terms.  

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