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GRAMOPHONE ( 02/ 2019)
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Reviewer: Fabrice Fitch

Cipriano’s complete setting of Petrarch’s stanzas to the Virgin were recorded by the Hilliard Ensemble early in their career, more than 35 years ago (Harmonia Mundi, 2/84); and, though a little straitlaced, theirs is a sunny, lucid performance. But again it comes as a surprise that it has had no successors (to my knowledge). Currende’s approach could hardly be more different: a live performance mixing voices and instruments, it introduces each stanza with a spoken recitation of the text by an Italian member of the ensemble, delivered with genuine feeling. All the stanzas are performed straight through with voices but are preceded with excerpted passages given over to instruments entirely. These changes of scoring give a sense of variety, and there is also a degree of ornamentation, something that isn’t done enough in modern performances. But not all these strategies translate positively from live performance to disc: the purely instrumental episodes strike me as superfluous, a view that others may not share but which inevitably colours the overall impression. The recitations are to my mind especially distracting, especially given the sonic artefacts (coughs, squeaky chairs) that intrude more often than one expects in a professional recording. Because recitation and music are on the same track, the listener cannot simply skip them (a minor point, perhaps, but an unnecessarily rigid use of the technology). As with the details of the performance itself, it’s hard not to conclude that such a thoughtful project would have benefited from a studio recording and stronger editorial control.

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