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GRAMOPHONE (11/2023)
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Reviewer :
 David Fallows

Luzzaschi’s Madrigali, printed in 1601, supposedly contains the music that the ‘three ladies’ of Ferrara sang privately for Duke Alfonso II d’Este and his guests in the 1580s: only 12 pieces, but all of them include the most terrifying embellishments written out in detail and with a fully written-out continuo part. For some reason, the full set has only seldom been recorded (I think the last was La Venexiana and Claudio Cavina on Glossa in 2011); but it was an obvious choice for the three magically matched and precise voices of La Néréide, singers who met while studying at the conservatory in Geneva. Every moment of this issue is absolutely gorgeous in sound and thoroughly controlled (that is to say that the semiquavers are dead right but the faster embellishments get a bit averaged); and the lower notes of the unusually wide range are sometimes treated a touch gently. And the three instrumentalists play with just the right combination of invention and deference throughout. To fill out the album they add the single (tiny) madrigal for three sopranos of Marenzio and the single (slightly longer) one of Monteverdi plus three absolutely mouth-watering trios from Francesca Caccini’s 1625 opera La liberazzione di Ruggiero dall’isola d’Alcina.


I have to say that my all-time favourite performance of anything by Luzzaschi remains Perrine Devillers singing ‘Aura soave’ with Elam Rotem (available on YouTube). I also have to say that I keep wondering what the current stars of bel canto would make of it (Nadine Sierra and Pretty Yende: why not give it a go?). But this remains a wonderfully rounded and satisfying disc, one to treasure.

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