Breathtaking performances of delicious music  read more Marc Rochester  Gramophone Magazine OUTSTANDING Release April 2012 International Record Review Music of the highest invention and emotional sophistication  read more Andrew O'Connor  International Record Review  MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL Recording Of The Year 2011 One of the best recordings I have heard all year  read more Johan van Veen  MusicWeb International  …will surely come to be regarded as a something of a milestone  read more Iain Fenlon  Early Music  The kaleidoscopic continuo expertly led here by the group’s director, Erin Headley, contribute enormously to the success of this album.  read more Gaëtan Naulleau  Diapason If your head has ever been turned or your heart pierced by Monteverdi’s more famous laments, you’ll probably love this.  read more Michael Dervan  Irish Times I can’t believe that Lamentarium from Atalante director Erin Headley will not be in my top ten recordings of the year.  read more Tim Thurston  RTE Lyric FM Ireland Stirring renditions by soprano Nadine Balbeisi and mezzo Theodora Baka of little-performed works  read more Andy Gill  The Independent RELIQUIE DI ROMA II: Caro Sposo Atalante and its inspired director must be congratulated for bringing together musicianship and scholarship in a way that is, in the end, truly revelatory. read more Iain Fenlon Early Music Performed as here with great care and the lightest of touches under director Erin Headley, the best is strikingly beautiful.  read more Andrew Clement The Guardian Another fine disc by this ensemble  read more Johan van Veen MusicWeb International Another one of those CD's that deserve a cornucopia of stars instead of a mere 5 read more Customer review RELIQUIE DI ROMA III: Mortale, che pensi? Manna from heaven to composers who remain unfairly lost in the wilderness read more David Vickers Gramophone Magazine MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL Recording Of The Month June 2014 The effect is one of richness the like of which is a new listening experience for me.  read more Gary Higginson MusicWeb International This disc is another gem. The music can't fail to impress.  read more Johan van Veen MusicWeb International …stylistically informed, and breathes this passionate music as though it were fresh and alive  read more Barry Brenesal FANFARE This is another revelatory and inspiring release by Erin Headley and Atalante. read more Andrew O'Connor International Record Review Beautiful CD, with exquisitely recorded performances  read more D James Ross Early Music Review
Atalante - Reliquie di Roma I: Lamentarium NI6152
Atalante - Reliquie di Roma II: Caro Sposo NI6185
Atalante - Reliquie di Roma III: Mortale, che pensi? NI6266
Winner Diapason d’Or January 2015
Breathtaking performances of delicious music associated with Pope Urban VIII It takes a very special skill to be able to convey in a single disc the range of moods – passionate, sensual, macabre and erotic – that these four composers evoke in their music, but guided by the graceful Erin Headley, the musicians of Atalante achieve it with spectacular success. While an atmosphere of retrospection hangs around much of the music, reaching its delicious apogee in the spine-tinglingly anguished opening of Rossi's reflections on the plight of Mary Magdalene as she lay at the foot of the cross, Pender non prima vide sopra vil tronco, there are also moments of extreme sensuality and high drama. Nadine Balbeisi has a voice of extraordinary purity, flawless in her intonation, perfectly balanced across her entire range and always singing with effortless composure. As the grief-stricken Mary Magdalene or as the angelic observer of the birth of Christ in Pasqualini’s lovely miniature, she is superbly sensitive. Theodora Baka, on the other hand, brings considerable warmth and potent dramatic presence, and is utterly convincing as Helen of Troy in Marazzoli’s Cadute erano al fine. In the duets, the two voices coalesce so completely that the effect is quite unnerving. Described as Vol 1, so hopefully more are to follow, the disc explores the work of those composers associated with the Barberinis (Pope Urban VIII and his family) who encouraged a culture of ‘extravagant repentance, lamenting and religious ecstasy’. These elements are perfectly portrayed in these breathtaking performances. Marc Rochester Gramophone Magazine OUTSTANDING Release April 2012 International Record Review Music of the highest invention and emotional sophistication. The rich accompaniment by Atalante, not least the unique sound of the lirone, surrounds the voices like luxurious Baroque embroidery. This is the debut recording by the ensemble called Atalante, which was formed in 2007 by Erin Headley as a vehicle for the instrument she has rediscovered and championed: the lirone. This is a fretted string instrument with between 9 and 14 (or, according to some, 16 or even 20) strings made from gut. It is about the size of a cello but has a flat bridge which allows for the playing of chords, using between three and five strings. The lirone is held between the legs and played with the bow held from underneath as with the viola da gamba. According to Headley, the instrument was invented in 1505 by a friend and pupil of Leonardo da Vinci named Atalante Migliorotti and the ensemble is named in his honour. The golden age of the lirone was the late Renaissance and Early Baroque. Its rich, sonorous, sometimes shimmering timbre was much favoured in continuo groups accompanying arias and recitatives in operas, cantatas and oratorios. Such rich continuo groups typically also featured a double harp, guitars, lutes or chitarrones, harpsichord and sometimes several viols, which instrumentation is essentially reproduced in Headley's ensemble. It is interesting to see the harpsichordist in the ensemble is the well-known Fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout. Laments and other tragic scenes were the especial preserve of the lirone. Monteverdi's Lamento d'Arianna of 1608 created this genre, which enthralled composers and audiences in Italy and beyond for most of the seventeenth century. Many operas and oratorios contained lengthy laments, which often took up an entire scene. Chamber cantatas including or entirely comprising laments were also very popular. Female characters drawn from mythology or religion were much favoured, but not exclusively so. They were subtly sensual works, often tinged with a Bernini-like eroticism. Sometimes laments were composed on topics drawn from recent history or almost current events. Perhaps the oddest and most provocative was Barbara Strozzi's Lamento del Marchese Cinq-Mars, which dealt with the fall and execution in 1642 of King Louis XIII’s proud and petulant young lover Henri d'Effiat, Marquis de Cinq- Mars. There is nothing so scandalous or politically charged in the laments Headley has chosen for this disc, with the Virgin Mary, Artemisia, Mary Magdalene and the aged Helen of Troy (’Elena invecchiata’) among the mourning characters depicted. There is also a lament on the death of Christ, Piangete occhi, piangete by Domenico Mazzocchi, where the weeping protagonist is an anonymous Christian believer. The very learned booklet essay, presumably by Headley, points out that, at least in public performance and particularly in Rome, these laments ‒ regardless of whether they concerned male or female characters ‒ were commonly sung by castrati. However, women singers certainly performed them at private musical gatherings hosted by the Roman aristocracy both social and ecclesiastical. The composers featured in this programme were among the finest and most celebrated of the Roman school of the early and mid- seventeenth century. The laments are substantial pieces (Luigi Rossi's Pender non prima vide sopra vil tronco ‘Tears of Mary Magdalene’ lasting 19 minutes), generally constructed with a mixture of highly expressive recitative, arioso passages and occasional gentle ostinatos. They are, without exception, music of the highest invention and emotional sophistication. The rich accompaniment by Atalante, not least the unique sound of the lirone, surrounds the voices like luxurious Baroque embroidery. This is consistent with the booklet photographs of the two singers and musicians in period costume and staging from semi-theatrical productions of this programme. It is a shame that apparently no DVD (or better, Blu-ray) recording has been issued. The two singers, both strikingly attractive, are the Jordanian-American soprano Nadine Balbeisi and the Greek mezzo-soprano Theodora Baka. I was initially a little hesitant about Baka's voice, which has just a touch too much vibrato for my purist tastes; however, after a while, her warmth of timbre and profoundly moving singing won me over. No such period of adjustment was needed in the case of Balbeisi, since I was already a strong admirer of her from her work with the duo ensemble Cantar alla Viola. Her highly expressive and utterly pure voice is the perfect instrument for this repertory. Her performances on this disc are, in a word, ravishing.  There are three brief instrumental interludes, two of which are transcriptions of vocal works, which Atalante plays with quiet intensity and incomparable grace. It is rather a relief to hear early seventeenth-century music played, for once, without percussion. Both vocal and instrumental works are given a wonderfully vivid recorded sound. Without wishing to sound snobbish, this is not a programme for the casual listener. It features music written for connoisseurs. Their successors today will find this in every way an outstanding recording. Andrew O’Connor International Record Review April 201 2 MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL Recording Of The Year 2011 The repertoire reflects the sense of experiment and invention which is a feature of Italian music of the early 17th-century. The performances of the recently-founded ensemble of Erin Headley are just as exciting as the music. The two singers, Nadine Balbeisi and Theodora Baka, deliver impressive performances. One of the best recordings I have heard all year. As its title indicates this disc is entirely devoted to laments. This was a popular genre in the 17th century. Some laments belong to the most famous pieces, like the Lamento d’Arianna by Monteverdi - the only surviving fragment from his lost opera. Then there’s the lament of Dido at the end of Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas. Various terms were used to describe them: lamento, pianto or lacrime (‘tears’). This disc could also bear the title ‘Piangete occhi, piangete’ - Weep, eyes, weep! - because that phrase returns in various pieces.   All these compositions were written by composers who worked in Rome, and in particular in the service of members of the Barberini family, one of the most wealthy in Italy. They were a Tuscan dynasty of wool merchants who also played a role in the church. When Maffeo Barberini was elected pope in 1623 - under the name of Urban VIII - he made two of his nephews cardinal, a third became Prince of Palestrina and commander of the Papal army. Together they acted as patrons of the arts in Rome, surrounding themselves with some of the best poets, artists and musicians. Among the most celebated musician-composers in their service were Girolamo Frescobaldi, the chitarrone virtuoso Johann Hieronymus Kapsberger and Stefano Landi, castrato and player of the harp and the guitar. The main composers on this disc, Luigi Rossi and Marco Marazzoli, were also singers and harpists.   Marazzoli was at the service of Cardinal Antonio Barberini. The largest part of his oeuvre - oratorios, operas and cantatas - was written for the Barberinis. The same Cardinal was also the patron of Luigi Rossi, one of Rome’s main composers. He has become especially famous for his opera Orfeo which was written for performance at the French court. This was at the request of Cardinal Jules Mazarin, who was of Italian birth and belonged to the Barberini network. The disc opens with a Passacaglia, an independent instrumental piece which may have been written while Rossi was in France.   The laments were not just written for musical entertainment. They also had a spiritual meaning, even those with secular content. Despite their love of splendour and their wish to display affluence, the Barberinis were also staunch supporters of the Counter-Reformation. And music was an important instrument by which to spread the ideals of this movement. The fact that worldly subjects were part of it only confirms that in this time there was no strict division between sacred and secular. A good example is the second item, Marazzoli's Lamento d’Elena invecchiata, the lament of the aged Helen, meaning Helen of Troy. It begins with a passage for a testo, a narrator. Oratorios, for instance those of Giacomo Carissimi (another Roman composer) often also had a role for a testo, telling parts of the story and introducing the characters - very much like the Evangelist in Bach’s Passions. This lament is the musical counterpart of paintings with a vanitas subject which were also used for the promotion of ethical values. In this case the moral lesson is the vanity of beauty. The narrator concludes: ‘And so she [Helen] showed us through the fragile mirror, how fragile is a beautiful face’.   Another secular piece is the Lamento d'Artemisia, also by Marazzoli. The title figure was Artemisia II, who after the death of her husband Mausolus ruled Caria from 353 to 351 B.C. She laments the death of Mausolus, and several historical figures are mentioned. This is, according to the liner-notes, one of the reasons this repertoire is not often performed. There are many references to figures and situations which are not familiar to modern audiences. That was different at the time this music was written, as the audiences consisted of aristocrats and clergymen who were very well educated.   The longest piece is of a sacred nature. Luigi Rossi’s Pianto della Maddalena is about Mary Magdalene who threw herself at the feet of the cross and ‘in sobs and sighs and with these bitter notes, gave voice to her sufferings’. Here we not only find sadness and grief, but also passages of utter despair and explosions of anger against heaven and hell. That lends it a great amount of realism from a psychological point of view. It also makes it a real tour de force for any interpreter. The Pianto della Maddalena is a masterpiece, and it gets a highly impressive and often moving performance by Nadine Balbeisi, who brings out every nuance of the text.   No less impressive is Theodora Baka in the lament of Artemisia and in the role of Helen of Troy in Marazzoli’s lament. Her voice isn't that much different from Ms Balbeisi’s, but has some darker streaks which are effectively used. The two singers are an excellent match in the duet in the Lamento d'Elena invecchiata and in ‘Dovremo piangere la passione di Nostro Signore’ - Let us weep for the passion of Our Lord. It was composed by Domenico Mazzocchi, another who enjoyed the protection of the Barberini family. The piece consists of six stanzas, the first and last for two voices. The programme ends with the closing episode from Luigi Rossi’s Oratorio per la Settimana Santa, an oratorio for Holy Week. This is a lament by Mary which ends with the words: ‘Eyes, weep, yeah weep for evermore!’. Then follows a ‘madrigale ultimo’ for the two voices which takes up the last line of Mary: ‘Weep, eyes, weep! Sorrows, torments, increase’.   An important aspect of this disc is the use of the various instruments. It is the first CD from Atalante, which Erin Headley founded a couple of years ago with the explicit aim of performing and recording music written in Rome in the 17th century. The name is derived from Atalante Migliorotti, friend and pupil of Leonardo da Vinci. More importantly, he was the inventor of the lirone. Ms Headley is a latter-day pioneer of this instrument and was the first to commission the building of a facsimile of the instrument which played such an important role in Italian music of the 17th century. With its dark sound it was especially suited to laments, and this disc is all the proof that could be needed. Also interesting is the frequent use of a harp in the basso continuo. This is particularly appropriate as both Rossi and Marazzoli played this instrument. Lastly, in several items we hear a consort of viols. That is not something one associates with Italian music of the 17th century, but such an ensemble was more widely used than is often thought. Whether consort players still transcribed vocal pieces in the 17th century as they did in the 16th I am not sure. Two examples of such transcriptions are included here: Spargete sospiri and Peccantem me quotidie, both by Luigi Rossi.   This is one of the best recordings I have heard all year. The repertoire is exciting, and so are the performances. It is thanks to grants from the Arts & Humanities Research Council of Great Britain that this programme could be recorded. There is more to come. I can hardly wait. Johan van Veen Music Web International …will surely come to be regarded as a something of a milestone . The two discs under review by the group Atalante, which Erin Headley (who worked with Tragicomedia) formed specifically to further explore this repertory, will surely come to be regarded as a something of a milestone in this history of rediscovery and recuperation, including, as they do, music that has not only received little attention in the past but is also mostly of the highest quality. Reliquie di Roma I: Lamentarium (Destino Classics/Nimbus Alliance NI6152, rec 2011, 67') contains a sequence of independent laments, nine to be precise, all except one having been transcribed from manuscript sources (at times difficult to decipher), preserved in libraries in Paris, Rome and Oxford. The exception, Domenico Mazzocchi’s Piangete occhi piangete, an extended and deeply moving meditation on the Passion of Christ, was published in the Roman collection Musiche sacre e morali of 1640. This source situation is in itself highly indicative of the social circumstances in which this repertory was largely composed and performed, namely for an elite local audience of aristocrats, cardinals, distinguished foreign visitors, and intellectuals who gathered to hear them, as they also heard sacred and secular operas and oratorios, in the grand palaces and churches of the city. As such it began life as a specifically local phenomenon, a direct outcome of the atmosphere and priorities of Barberini Rome, with its determination to advance the doctrines of the Catholic Reformation as well as the fortunes of the family. The Puritan poet John Milton attended precisely such an occasion during his stay in Rome in 1646 when he heard a performance of the opera Chi soffre speri, composed by Virglio Mazzocchi with intermedi by Marco Marazzoli, which had been commissioned to inaugurate the new Barberini theatre. The performances on this first disc are exquisite—a more powerful and persuasive advocacy for these pieces could hardly be imagined. Kaleidoscopic shifts of colour, highlighted by movements in the instrumental parts carefully choreographed to highlight textual meaning, articulate a constantly changing palette. This is not so much a question of accompaniment, as might be conventionally described, but rather a fully integrated conversation between voices and instruments, submerged in an intensely alert and sensitive texture that is ever ready to acknowledge the significance of individual words and phrases. The dedicated continuo ensemble is made up, somewhat unusually, of double harp, chitarrone, keyboards, viol consort (a specifically Roman taste) and lirone, the viol-like bowed instrument whose large number of strings (14 or more) and unique system of tuning not only allowed it to accommodate the unusual harmonic twists and inflections that are one of the distinctive hallmarks of much of this music, but also offered the possibility of sustained chordal support. In addition to its participation alongside the two soloists Nadine Balbeisi (soprano) and Theodora Baka (mezzo-soprano), the instrumental group is also heard to full advantage in the three short instrumental pieces by Luigi Rossi, taken from vocal originals (as was standard practice at the time), which punctuate the recording. Iain Fenlon Early Music   The kaleidoscopic continuo expertly led here by the group’s director, Erin Headley, contribute enormously to the success of this album. In the Lamento d’Arianna (1608), Monteverdi was perhaps the first to set such a lengthy and tormented text to music. He in turn was emulated by Bonini, Pari, Costa and Verso, whose settings were collected on an excellent CD for DHM by the Consort of Musicke. In contrast to his colleagues, Cavalli punctuated his operas with striking laments; they function to prolong the pain so as to give prominence to the pleasure. The independent lament, demanding of performer and listener alike, is the genre explored in two new recordings: the aggressive approach of Romina Basso (Naïve) contrasts with that of Atalante (Destino). Atalante’s CD is more subtle in atmosphere and more original in content: their fascinating album shows that an entire programme of laments need not entail monotony. The only previously recorded work here is ‘Piangete occhi, piangete!’, which Atalante have extracted from an oratorio by Luigi Rossi. Pain and despair are as welcome as the ‘wings that lift us to the throne of true glory’, for tears in counter-Reformation Rome signalled relief rather than torment: suffering was pleasurable. Theodora Baka’s mezzo-soprano is velvety and divinely smoky, and she brings those qualities effortlessly and eloquently into play here. Marazzoli’s Lamento d’Artemisia casts the spell of a song without artifice: in quiet astonishment and infinite tenderness, Artemisia laments the dead king, and in little more than ten minutes we succumb by degrees to her unassuageable grief. More extended, at nearly twice the length, and equally effective is the lament of Mary Magdalene by Luigi Rossi, in which the soprano Nadine Balbeisi’s transparent timbre and clear enunciation characterise the portrayal of the holy penitent: throughout, she brings inspiration and generosity of feeling to her doleful, yearning recitation. The two singers alternate in Marazzoli’s wonderful ‘Cadute erano al fine’ – as with most of this programme, a new discovery – whose text combines two aspects of vanitas: the aging Helen of Troy meditates at once on her faded beauty and on the irreparable destruction caused by war. The kaleidoscopic continuo expertly led here by the group’s director, Erin Headley, contribute enormously to the success of this album, and their entrancing sounds are complemented by the spectacle of selected scenes delivered in costume on an accompanying DVD. Above all, the lasting impression is of plangent voices in compelling declamation over the uniquely evocative, ghostly chords of Headley’s chosen instrument, the lirone. Gaëtan Naulleau Diapason If your head has ever been turned or your heart pierced by Monteverdi’s more famous laments, you’ll probably love this. This is an album of 17th-century laments. The subjects vary widely. Marco Marazzoli treats Helen of Troy and Artemisia, Luigi Rossi deals with Mary Magdelene and the Blessed Virgin, and Marc’ Antonio Pasqualini and Domenico Mazzochi focus on the birth and passion of Jesus. The musical responses range from the plaintive to the penetrating to the momentarily explosive. Atalante is a new ensemble, directed by Erin Headley, which performs the music in staged concerts, with period costumes and props. But the music- making has a kind of unassuming comprehensiveness that communicates vividly without the need for visual stimulation. The two singers, soprano Nadine Balbeisi and mezzo soprano Theodora Baka, have an affecting beauty of tone and blend perfectly. If your head has ever been turned or your heart pierced by Monteverdi’s more famous laments, youll probably love this. Michael Dervan Irish Times I can’t believe that Lamentarium  from Atalante director Erin Headley will not be in my top ten recordings of the year. Some really exquisite sounds from Atalante – the voices, perfect for this repertoire, were Nadine Balbeisi and Theodora Baka and within the glorious instrumental texture you heard the harp of Siobhan Armstrong – and there are a couple of chitarrone thrown in  for good measure – quite irresistible – I can’t believe that Lamentarium  from Atalante director Erin Headley will not be in my top ten recordings of the year.  Tim Thurston RTE Lyric FM Ireland Stirring renditions by soprano Nadine Balbeisi and mezzo Theodora Baka of little-performed works. Erin Headley is the leading performer - probably the sole performer, in fact - on the lirone, a 17th century precursor of the cello with between 9 and 14 strings, whose sound was said to move the emotions uncontrollably. It’s matched here in the early-music ensemble Atalante with viols, harpsichord, chittarone and double-harp, in stirring renditions by soprano Nadine Balbeisi and mezzo Theodora Baka of little-performed works by such as Luigi Rossi and Marco Marazzoli. The laments - long and involved plaints of widows, Mary Magdalene and, in Marazzoli’s “Cadute erano al fine”, an aged Helen Of Troy contemplating her decrepitude (”For you, Helen, Troy was vanquished?”), are sensually melancholy, indulgences in heightened emotions. The lirone, meanwhile, is most effectively showcased in Rossi's shorter bel canto pieces, where its complex, bittersweet warmth comes through most clearly. Andy Gill The Independent Atalante and its inspired director must be congratulated for bringing together musicianship and scholarship in a way that is, in the end, truly revelatory. Rossi’s ‘Lament of the Blessed Virgin’ that concludes his Oratorio per la Settimana Santa might be thought of as a premonition of the second of Atalante’s two records, Reliquie di Roma II: Caro Sposo (Destino Classics/ Nimbus Alliance NI6185, rec 2012, 62'), which features a complete performance of Marazzoli’s Oratorio di Santa Caterina. Transcribed, as is so much of the music on these records, from a manuscript in the Barberini collection in the Vatican Library, it falls into the traditional two halves, each of which finished with a five-voice madrigal pointing up the moral of the story. Here the instrumental ensemble, reduced to double harp, harpsichord, lirone, viola da gamba and two violins, places a greater reliance on the chordal support provided by the lirone. And although the role of St Catherine herself is provided for in the greater share of the work’s recitatives and arias, it is ‘Piango la sua sventura’, in which a Roman soldier laments the saint’s impending death that effectively inaugurates the final drama. Following a series of exchanges in which the two rehearse the arguments for and against martyrdom, the music flowers into the captivatingly poignant bel canto style of ‘Caro sposo’, Catherine’s final beatific outpouring before making the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of the Redeemer. This is surely the saint’s most ravishing aria in the entire work, though she is also provided with others, notably ‘O care pene’ and ‘O soave catena’, where the full dramatic and expressive potentialities of Marazzoli’s plangent style are exploited to the full. Katherine Watson rises to the challenge in a series of sensitively shaped and powerfully effective deliveries, exhibiting breathtaking vocal agility and control in the more luxurious passages, while a sequence of finely chiselled performances from Christian Immler as Massimeno, the principal male character in the story, provide an eloquent counterbalance. Atalante and its inspired director must be congratulated for bringing together musicianship and scholarship in a way that is, in the end, truly revelatory. Iain Fenlon Early Music Performed as here with great care and the lightest of touches under director Erin Headley, the best is strikingly beautiful... Marco Marazzoli (1602-1662) was a priest and composer who entered the service of Cardinal Berberini in Rome in 1626. His output did include operas, but Marazzoli devoted more of his energy to the oratorio, at least seven of which were to Italian texts, rather than the usual Latin. The most significant of them was the last, this Oratorio di Santa Caterina, completed in 1660, and based upon the life of the martyr Saint Catherine, daughter of the king of Alexandria. The only surviving source of the oratorio (in the Vatican library) is badly damaged, and so this recording, the latest in Atalante's series devoted to works from 17th-century Rome, is based in part on a reconstruction. Some of it may be routine, but performed as here with great care and the lightest of touches under director Erin Headley, the best is strikingly beautiful, especially Piango la tua Sventura, the lament accompanied by a lirone that is sung by a Roman soldier just before Catherine is put to death. The disc also includes an aria, another lament, from Cain e Abel by Bernado Pasquini, a Roman composer some 30 years younger than Marazzolli. Andrew Clements The Guardian Another fine disc by this ensemble. Atalante was founded in 2007 by Erin Headley. Their first disc was devoted to laments of four ladies: Helen of Troy, Queen Artemisia, Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary, and was reviewed here. For this second disc Headley has turned her attention to the genre of the oratorio which was of great importance in Italy and specifically in Rome during the 17th century.   Although Giacomo Carissimi can't be considered its inventor, he was the main contributor to the genre in the mid-17th century. It didn't take long for the oratorio to become very popular. On the one hand it was a tool in the hands of the Counter Reformation to spread its message, on the other it was an alternative to opera, a genre which didn’t go down that well with the ecclesiastical authorities. Oratorios had different subjects, but were quite dramatic. Whereas Carissimi's oratorios were largely directed towards a sophisticated audience who knew Latin, the oratorio is in Italian and aimed at a wider audience.   Marco Marazzoli was from Parma and was ordained a priest, probably in 1625. The next year he moved to Rome. It is suggested he was taken there by Cardinal Ippolito Aldobrandini, who returned from Parma to Rome in November of that year. For the largest part of his career he was at the service of Cardinal Antonio Barberini, a member of a family which played an important role in the church. It gave him the opportunity to compose operas, first in Rome but later also in Ferrara and Venice. From 1643 to 1645 he stayed in Paris, composing and performing cantatas and ballets. After his return to Rome he found the Barberini family in exile, and that is when he started to compose oratorios, both in Latin and in Italian. The Oratorio di Santa Caterina was probably his last contribution to the genre, according to Erin Headley dating from around 1660.   The story revolves around St Catherine, daughter of King Costus of Alexandria. After she inherited her father's lands the Roman emperor Maxentius came to Alexandria to perform a great ceremony for his gods. According to tradition he fell in love with her, and asked her to become a lady at his court, only second to his wife. Being a devout Christian she refused. Under the threat of torture the emperor wanted to force her to renounce her faith. She refused firmly, and paid for that with her life. The libretto was written by Lelio Orsini, one of the most eminent librettists in Rome. As was customary the oratorio is split into two parts, each concluded with a five- part chorus, called madrigale. The story of an oratorio was always told by a testo, comparable with the Evangelist in 18th-century German oratorio passions. His role - here performed by a soprano - is rather limited, for instance in comparison with the oratorios of Carissimi. The core of the work is the dialogue between St Catherine and the emperor, who here bears the name of Massimo.   The opposition between the two characters is quite dramatic, firstly because of their dialogue in the form of recitatives, but also because of the different kinds of music they have to sing. Massimo is rude, using his power to force his will upon St Catherine and not able to deal with her steadfastness. St Catherine, on the other hand, is unflappable and answers every move of the emperor by emphasizing her trust in God. In her last aria she speaks to Jesus as “caro sposo e Redentore” - dear spouse and Redeemer. The contrast is underlined by the scoring of the basso continuo: in the recitatives St Catherine is mostly supported by the harp, whereas Massimo is accompanied by the more penetrating sounds of the harpsichord.   The largest part of the work consists of recitatives, but they are interrupted by mostly rather short, but highly expressive arias. In particular the arias of St Catherine are moving, like the one I have already referred to, but also ‘Deh' non più’, early in the second part and ‘Alme temete’ at the end of part one. The closing episode of the first part is especially interesting because of the use of bassi ostinati. That was a common habit at the time, but here it is also related to the content of the oratorio, and in particular the character of St Catherine. The main feature of a basso ostinato is the repetition of the same pattern, and in this case this can be interpreted as an expression of St Catherine’s perseverance. Her stance is supported by Speranza (Hope) and Fede (Faith).   “What motivated us to revive the oratorio was the moving soldier's lament with lirone accompaniment”, Erin Headley writes in the booklet. That lament is in the second part, just before St Catherine is going to die. After her death it is the same soldier who expresses the moral message of this oratorio: “He who does not possess heaven possesses nothing”, which is then repeated in the madrigale à 5  which closes the oratorio.   The main roles are taken by Katherine Watson and Christian Immler. The former is certainly not chosen because of her Christian name. She turns out to be an excellent choice because of her vocal qualities. She portrays St Catherine perfectly, with an impressive account of the recitatives in truly speechlike manner. The beauty and sweetness of her voice is suitable for her arias whose expressive character is fully explored. Christian Immler is very convincing as emperor Massimo, and one can hear his increasing anger about St Catherine's uncompromising stance. The smaller roles of the soldiers, the testo and Faith and Hope are appropriately sung. Juan Sancho is particularly good in the above-mentioned lament with lirone. One probably has to get used to the frequent shifts from falsetto into chest register by Steve Dugardin. In earlier years I have heard him doing this with more ease. I wonder whether a high tenor - like the French hautecontre - would have been a better choice.   Also inspired by the lirone is the extract from Caino e Abele, an oratorio by Bernardo Pasquini. We hear the lament of Cain after he has been banished by God for murdering Abel: “Where, alas, can I hide (...), wretched and abhorred by the world, hateful to the heavens?” In a way I am disappointed by this choice: this oratorio is only available in a recording from 1990 which was recently reissued. In my review I commented on a lack of drama and the omission of the lirone in the lira (da gamba) part. The extract on this disc means that we can forget seeing Atalante recording the complete oratorio. That said, Emily Van Evera sings the part of Cain very well.   It rounds off another very fine disc by this ensemble. The repertoire of vocal music of a dramatic character of the mid-17th century in Rome is voluminous. It will probably be more difficult to make a choice than to find music to perform. The quality of the Roman music of this time and the standard of the performances make me look forward to upcoming projects from Atalante.   Johan van Veen Music Web International Another one of those CD's that deserve a cornucopia of stars instead of a mere 5 Marazzoli was born in Parma sometime between 1600 and 1610, the sources for his birthdate being many and confused, with no record of his baptism having been found. He took holy orders and was presumably ordained priest about 1625. He was supposedly a student of Allegri (the one of "Miserere" fame), though other sources say Giuseppe Gamberti was his teacher. According to his autograph will, Marazzoli moved to Rome in 1626, which is the first reliable information we have about his life. Perhaps he was taken there, in the company of Domenico Mazzocchi, by Cardinal Ippolito Aldobrandini, who returned to Rome from Parma on 7 November 1626. We do know that he very quickly became famous as a harp virtuoso, since he earned himself the nickname Marco dell'arpa. Some time afterwards Marazzoli entered the service of Cardinal Antonio Barberini the younger. In 1631 Marazzoli, together with such well-known musicians as Landi and Filippo Vitali, accompanied the cardinal when he went as papal legate to Urbino. Early in 1637 Antonio Barberini became protector of French affairs at Rome, where he remained until the Barberinis engaged in the War of Castro in 1641. Marazzoli entered the cardinal's new household as aiutante di camera in 1637, and the Barberini family secured for him a post as tenor in the papal chapel on 23 May. He was later made a bussolante by Pope Urban VIII. He had already, since 1634, held a benefice at Antonio Barberini's basilica, S Maria Maggiore, which continued until his death. Not until 1639 did Marazzoli gain the position of a musico in the household of Antonio Barberini, and it is therefore somewhat difficult to trace his activities as a composer before this date. He did, however, write the music for the comedy-ballet La pazzia d'Orlando for Carnival 1638 and the intermedi to Chi soffre speri for Carnival 1639, both performed in the Barberini palace. From 1640 his compositional activities moved from Rome to Ferrara (a bridgehead of the papal dominions) and Venice. His opera L'Amore trionfante dello Sdegno (L'Armida) was written to celebrate a wedding in February 1641 in Ferrara, where Marazzoli is said to have stayed from July 1640 to March 1641. After the victorious Castro battle, Marazzoli, went to Venice. According to Capponi, Marazzoli was invited there to revise Vitali's Narciso et Ecco for Carnival 1642. During the same carnival Marazzoli's own opera Gli amori di Giasone e d'Isifile was given at the Teatro SS Giovanni e Paolo. Back in Rome by mid-1642, Marazzoli succeeded, through the intervention of Antonio Barberini with the pope, in securing leave of absence to travel to Paris, at Cardinal Mazarin's invitation, with a company of Italian musicians including the singers Leonora Baroni and Atto Melani (the latter a subject of a brilliant recent biography "Portrait of a Castrato" by Roger Freitas). At the court of Anne of Austria in Paris he composed chamber cantatas with which he delighted the queen, sometimes moving her to tears. Through his appearance at the French court, Marazzoli preceded Cavalli in introducing the new Italian cantata style with the virtuoso Atto Melani, who had sung leading roles in operas by Rossi, Cavalli and Cesti, showing off the latest fashions of composing and singing in Rome. Marazzoli can be said to have paved the way for Cavalli's invitation by Mazarin, at the suggestion of Atto Melani, for Cavalli to compose an opera for the celebration of the marriage of Louis XIV to Maria Theresa, daughter of the King of Spain. Cavalli was very reluctant to accept the commission, but in the end, Cavalli left for France in April or May 1660. The large fee and the guarantee that his salary in as organist as St. Mark's in Venice would be paid during his absence. Money makes opera composers go round even more than the world. Unfortunately, Mazarin died in March 1661, which immediately made life sour for Italian musicians, because the French clique of composers - led by a Frenchified Italian, Lolli, or as we know him today, Lully and his patrons, which included Louis XIV usurped the predilection for Italian composers supported by Mazarin. This is not a review of a Cavalli opera, however, so suffice it to say that Cavalli did write and perform Ercole Amante for the Sun King in spite of Lully's intrigues against him. The myth goes that upon his return to Venice in 1662, he was so disgusted with his French experience that he resolved never to compose operas again. There is truth in this, since in a letter of 8 August he declared that he had left France resolved never to work for the theatre again. This statement has been interpreted as disillusionment over the delays in producing and the reception of Ercole amante. But it may just as well reflect his large financial reward from the French court (including a diamond ring `bizzarramente e gentilmente lavorato'), which would have freed him from any necessity to earn his living by the composition of operas. Nonetheless, he was to compose another 6 operas before his death, proving that old habits die hard (or that he spent too much time gambling and whatever else one did in the Venetian casinos at the time). But back to Marazzoli, whose fortunes were nowhere as lucrative as Cavalli's in the long term: When he returned to Rome in April 1645 Marazzoli found himself deprived of opportunities for opera because of the Barberini family's exile in France (1645-53). He therefore took to writing oratorios, including five Latin works almost certainly composed for the Arciconfraternita del SS Crocifisso. Three extant Italian oratorios may have been written for the Roman Filippini about 1650. 1653 saw the return of Antonio Barberini to Rome and the reconciliation of the Barberini and Pamphili families. For the marriage of Taddeo Barberini's son Maffeo with Olimpia Giustiniani (a niece of Innocent X) a new opera was commissioned from Marazzoli by Antonio Barberini. Marazzoli assumed the role of principal composer for the new Barberini opera series. For Carnival 1655 he composed Le armi e gli amori, but the conclave to elect a new pope after the death of Innocent X caused the production to be postponed. At Christmas 1655 Queen Christina of Sweden arrived in Rome, and in her honour the Barberini family presented Marazzoli's allegorical opera La Vita humana during Carnival 1656 (Le armi e gli amori and Dal male il bene were also performed during carnival). Marazzoli used the title of virtuoso da camera to the queen, and it may be that he attended her during her singing lessons with Loreto Vittori. Marazzoli was well known also as a harp player. He possessed the famous gilded `Barberini harp', now in the Museo degli Strumenti Musicali, Rome, which was represented in a painting by Giovanni Lanfranco. From April 1655 Marazzoli worked also for the new pope Alexander VII Chigi, who commissioned festive cantatas for the Vatican, the Quirinal and Castel Gandolfo. In 1656 Marazzoli was appointed cameriere extra by the pope, but the plague of 1656-7 and the years of poverty that followed interrupted Roman musical activities until about 1660. Antonio Barberini experienced a new surge of religious faith about this time, and may have influenced the composer, who began to celebrate mass personally. It is interesting that Marazzoli's will, drawn up about 1660, names Anna Giustiniani, his adoptive niece since 1650, several members of the Barberini family, Cardinal Giulio Rospigliosi and some other friends, but neither Queen Christina of Sweden nor the Chigi family. We know that the queen admired Carissimi and Abbatini (and, later, musicians of a new generation), perhaps more than Marazzoli, and this may have been true of the pope as well, after an initial period of admiration (their loss, as Marazzoli's music beats Carissimi's hands down). During Mass in the Cappella Sistina on 25 January 1662 Marazzoli was ostensibly "wounded in a serious accident," the nature of which is not known; he died the next day. I suppose that if you have to go, getting started on your himmelfahrt in the Sistine Chapel is not a bad place to start. I tried researching the facts about the titillating nature of Marazzoli's death. Davide Daolmi, in his doctoral thesis Storia ed analisi delle culture musicali, publ. Università La Sapienza di Roma; 2006, has been able to confirm that Marazzoli actually died at 2 am on January 26th based on the Vatican Diaries, with the cause described as "malessere," i.e. illness. There is no mention of any dramatic accidents in the thesis, like Marazzoli getting hit in the head by a swinging incense burner or falling off the musician's balcony (as far as I can remember, there isn't one in the Sistine Chapel anyway). Thus the cause of Marazzoli's death must remain a mystery until I can gain access to the archives in the Vatican Library. THE MUSIC The Score to Oratorio di Santa Caterina only exists in one incomplete copy in the Vatican Library. It has been restored - very tastefully - for the performance of this CD. Marazzoli is unmistakably a composer of the golden age of Roman Early Baroque. His arias are as expressive and chromatically delicious as Rossi's, his melodious recitatives are as good as Cavalli's, and his choruses are unique in their blend of homophony and madrigalesque elements. I have heard many an oratorio by Rossi, Carissimi, Mazzochi et al., but I can't say that any of them have surpassed this Santa Caterina in musical quality. At best, they have equalled it, though I can't say I've heard music of this period composed better than what we can hear on this CD. THE MUSICIANS The singing is no less than superb. Soprano Katherine Watson has the major part as Santa Caterina. Her voice is meltingly sweet, while being appropriately expressive when the score calls for it. Christian Immler has a powerful bass voice, which lacks nothing in strength throughout his range and his singing projects with great character. Juan Sancho has a tenor voice perfect for early baroque music, while the rest of the cast, with the excellent Emily van Evera as Fede, lives fully up to the standards of the singers in the main roles. Especially beautiful is how the solo voices blend in sound and style, so one hears a musical continuity throughout the oratorio that is rare indeed. The ensemble Atalante, led by Erin Headley, accompanies the singers sensitively and with perfect insight into the dramatic situation throughout. Ladies and Gentlemen, a great new baroque orchestra/consort has arrived! THE RECORDING Technically, the recording quality is superb, with exquisite resonance and balance throughout. A well-deserved bravo goes to the recording technicians as much as the musicians. I don't know why the recording artists chose to include a "filler" excerpt from Pasquini's Cain and Abel. The music is not noteworthy (pardon the pun), nor does it hail from the same period as Marazzoli's music. Perhaps it was a "preview" of a future recording project. As such, it makes no impact on the recording of Marazzoli, but after hearing the oratorio, I'd buy any CD produced by these artists, so maybe there's some sense to the incongruity of this musical padding. Another one of those CD's that deserve a cornucopia of stars instead of a mere 5. I highly recommend this recording - you will not be disappointed by the music and the musicians. Customer review manna from heaven to composers who remain unfairly lost in the wilderness Lirone player Erin Headley (co-founder of Tragicomedia) now has her own group, Atalante, who here present the third volume of an exceptional series investigating neglected music from early-17th-century Rome. Rossi's three-voice madrigal Mortale, the pensi? is a melancholic contemplation of the fleeting nature of mortality, sung gorgeously by sopranos Katherine Watson and Nadine Balbesi and tenor Samuel Boden; it leads without hesitation into Watson's enrapturing performance of Carissimi's solemn `Deh, memoria'. For good measure, Headley also throws in the famous final chorus of Carissimi's oratorio Yepthe, but played by a consort of viols. Christian Immler sings with virtuoso precision and a vivid sense of narrative in Stradella's solo bass cantata L'incendio di Roma, which describes the drunken Nero laughing as Rome burns and observes the tyrant's doom. Watson sings with piercing sweetness in Mazzochi's laments for the grieving mother of the murdered Euryalus (Nisus et Euryalus) and Mary Magadelene (Lagrime amare), both taken from the collection Dialogi e sonetti (Rome, 1638), whereas mezzo-soprano Theodora Baka takes centre stage in an impassioned performance of Marazzoli's Lamento d Armida and Boden's honeyed tenor gently describes the group of Mary at the foot of the cross in A pie del sanguinoso tronco (the music is anonymous but the poetry is by Cardinal Antonio Barberini). Atalante announce that the fourth 'Reliquie di Roma' volume will present two oratorios by Mazzochi, and thus this laudable enterprise will continue to offer manna from heaven to composers who remain unfairly lost in the wilderness. David Vickers Gramophone MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL Recording Of The Month June 2014 This CD is beautifully recorded…Ideal really.  It is a firm fact of musical history that during the latter years of the 16th century in cities like Mantua and Florence, the so-called ‘Stile Rappresentativo’ burgeoned from the madrigal into what we now call Opera. The Academies were fascinated by what might have happened in ancient Greek drama and had a real delight in hearing a singer display a clear understanding of the text. Those early composers, Peri, Caccini, Marco da Gagliano and Monteverdi were the leading lights. It lesser known that Rome was also a strong centre of literary and musical developments well into the 1620s and beyond. One of the most avid patrons was Cardinal Antonio Barberini. At his court were composers like Domenico Mazzocchi and Luigi Rossi both represented on this CD. Erin Headley founded the group Atalante in 2008. Its aim is to semi-stage the cantatas, arias and madrigals of the period in costume. For this recording the group consists of five singers and eight instrumentalists including Erin Headley herself. She has specialised since her younger days in the ensemble Circa 1500 in the lirone, a strange sort of gamba which had a rather short but intense shelf life. The other instruments include a double harp and a chitarrone as well as strings. The effect is one of richness the like of which is a new listening experience for me. The booklet calls it a “luxurious continuo” and goes on to say that it is “not so much a question of accompaniment but rather a fully integrated conversation between voices and instruments”. I for one am smitten with the effect. But what of all these females listed at the top of the review? They are all women who lament the death of or abandonment by a lover. This is really a CD of Laments. One should not too surprised by this; think of Monteverdi’s ‘Lamento d’Arianna’ and ‘Lamento della Ninfa’. It was a popular form as it allowed first poets to explore a classical theme, a composer to write passionately and intensely and a singer to demonstrate the full range of his or her communicative qualities and abilities. Dividing up these vocal items are four instrumental ones. The recording gets its name from the opening work by Rossi which comes from a Barberini manuscript now in the Vatican. Apparently there are many hundreds, if not thousands, of madrigals and arias in these still little known manuscripts and many are anonymous. All singers are involved in this piece and its sets the somewhat sober mood: “O mortal what are you thinking/Your triumphs are fleeting/and there is a death at every moment …”. However it would be wrong to get the impression that the music is all rather dismal - quite the reverse. The way it is performed is moving, exciting and at the highest artistic level. Anyone who thinks that recitative is just of the ‘secco’ variety that you find in opera or in a Handel oratorio need not be concerned. These recits and these arias and cantatas are dramatic and intensely expressive with regular harmony changes, vivid word painting and opulent instrumental support. They are, the booklet reminds us, “extravagant arias”. Let’s take one special example by Marco Marazzoli, which takes the subject of the Lamento d’Armida and is set for mezzo and continuo. Armida is a Muslim in love with a Christian who sails away without her. Her anger is played out in two sections more like an arioso. The continuo is strongly, even violently played to emphasise certain points of the text. For example the opening “Whither are you fleeing, cruel one” and again later “Go away wicked man … and may heaven and the waves and the wind….. arm themselves with a dark shroud”. She then changes her mood and there follows a contrast. This takes the form of a gentle aria in compound time to describe the gently rolling waves for “Depart under favourable skies may the wind assist you and may the waves be calm”. Finally there is an instrumental postlude. I can’t help but wonder what the singer does during this final section. I have never heard accompanying continuo played so dramatically or for that matter such committed singing in this repertoire. These are dramatized performances. Not only have these singers and players brought this forgotten music to light they are performing it surely as it must have been done four hundred years ago: to move the audience to tears and to bring the story to life. I must single out Baka for praise but do also listen to Nadine Balbeisi in Rossi’s equally passion-ridden Lamento Zaida. The sufferings of these mythical women mentioned above are as nothing in comparison to those of the Virgin Mary at the foot of the cross. This is reflected in the anonymous A piè del sanunoso tronco, sung equally exquisitely by Samuel Boden. The text is by no less than Antonio Barberini himself. At the end we are told that the Virgin, having accused her son of being the source of her torture, “fell senseless to the ground” just as you see in many Renaissance paintings. The sufferings of Mary Magdalene are represented in the last piece by the remarkable and iconic Domenico Mazzocchi in his Lagrime amare. This CD is beautifully recorded and the booklet comes with complete texts, performers’ biographies and some photographs, also two essays by Erin Headley. The first goes through the composers and the background to the pieces. The second, at the back, is entitled ‘Enharmonic Exotica’ in which Headley discusses some of the period’s instrumental oddities like the lirone and the even more bizarre tuning methods found and heard in the Mazzocchi ‘Lagrime’. Ideal really. Gary Higginson Music Web International this disc is another gem I reviewed the first two discs, and I was impressed by the choice of repertoire and the performances. It is no different this time: this disc is another gem. The music can't fail to impress. The composers knew how to set a text and to express its emotions in a most evocative way, using the various tools they had at their disposal to maximum effect. For any performance it is absolutely necessary to master the art of recitar cantando, speechlike singing, because in these monodic pieces the rhythm of the music is subservient to that of the text. Only here and there do we find more lyrical episodes, pointing in the direction of the aria which would become more important towards the end of the 17th century. The singers of Atalante fully live up to the requirements. Christian Immler gives a powerful account of the monologue of Nero (Stradella), Nadine Balbeisi convincingly personifies Zaida (Rossi), and Theodora Baka is excellent as Armida. Katherine Watson delivers an incisive performance of Lagrime amare, also about Jesus' passion, whereas Samuel Boden gives a sensitive interpretation of A piè del sanguinoso tronco. More important than the singers' technical skills is the ability to communicate the emotional content, and that is exactly this disc's main asset. The booklet announces the fourth disc in this series which will be called Lamento di David. I am very much looking forward to it Johan van Veen Music Web International stylistically informed, and breathes this passionate music as though it were fresh and alive Reliquie di Roma is very much a play on words. “Relics of Rome” summons up images of the architecture of the Roman Republic and subsequent Empire, but here it is taken to mean the music played in the 17th-century academies formed in the capitol of the Papal States. It was a time of rediscovery, of Arabic medicine and mathematics, Neo-Platonist theories of the soul, and planetary affinities. It was also a time of artistic experimentation in music, spurred on by studies into Attic Greek modes, with new forms, instruments, and tonal relationships. The Italian States were a trade nexus for Asian, African, and European goods, as well as the center of the one of the world’s most powerful religions, all of which lent a financial and artistic splendor to the many courts of its secular and sacred rulers. This album provides an attractive sampling of the works that would have been heard at these rulers’ academies (and in a few instances, still exist in manuscripts in the Vatican library). Some of it, such as Luigi Rossi’s Mortale, che pensi? and Stradella’s L’incendio di Roma , look back stylistically to the beginning of the century, recalling either Monteverdi’s madrigals or the fluid, ever-shifting expressiveness of the newly developed recitative, with its ability to mirror shifts of emotional degrees. Other pieces are more experimental, such as Marazzoli’s Lagrime amare , its 19-tone octave allowing for pure thirds. (Similar developments were mirrored in some contemporary instruments, of which a few survive, such as an enharmonic virginal by Francesco Poggio currently in the Rodger Mirrey Collection at the University of Edinburgh. It can be heard in a toccata by Michelangelo Rossi on Delphian 34039.) His lament of the Magdalene is striking, its unusual harmonic progressions embedded for dramatic effect next to stretches of more conventional ones, in a monophonic texture. Erin Headley, who formed Atalante in 2007, did so initially to secure visibility for the repertoire of the lirone. Aside from a few instrumental selections, however, this recording emphasizes vocals, often with fairly simple accompaniment. Five of the six singers receive enough space to prove themselves both technical and expressive masters of this material—by my reckoning, Nadine Balbeisi in Rossi’s Lamento di Zaida and Theodora Baka in Marazzoli’s Lamento d’Armida , in particular. The nine instrumentalists, mostly strings, bowed and plucked, come into their own on four pieces where they display great purity and balance of tone. Here, Bojan Čičić’s playing in Leone’s Sonata XXIX is especially to be commended for its beauty and elastic phrasing. Though not featured, Headley’s influence can be felt everywhere as director, in her ensemble that is stylistically informed, and breathes this passionate music as though it were fresh and alive—which in Atalante’s hands and voices, it definitely is. Strongly recommended.   Barry Brenesal FANFARE …another revelatory and inspiring release by Erin Headley, and Atalante A discerning reviewer gave the first volume of this series by Erin Headley's ensemble Atalante an IRR Outstanding award in April 2012, praising its interesting repertory -mid-seventeenth-century Italian laments by various composers - fascinating instrumental textures and ravishing singing. The lament was a favoured form of composition in the generations from Monteverdi (who practically invented the genre) to Purcell (who wrote perhaps the most famous in Dido and Aeneas). Historical, literary, religious, and even contemporary figures were made the subject of such laments. On this edition, the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, two different Muslim women and the Emperor Nero appear -though Nero's song, composed by Alessandro Stradella, is less a lament than a protracted gloat as he watches Rome burn. Many of the texts were written by members of the noble and nepotistic Barberini family and their circle. Throughout the series may be heard the distinctive sound of the lirone, a Renaissance string instrument that had a brief golden age in seventeenth-century Italy. Headley is its leading modern exponent… As ever with Atalante, the instrumental contribution is rich, sonorous and uniformly well played. Alongside the gentle buzz of the lirone, can be heard viols of various sizes, harpsichord, chitarrone, double harp and violin - the effect is sumptuous throughout. Headley contributes two highly informative essays and the booklet includes full texts and translations by the singer and scholar Candace Smith. The crystal-clear recording was made far from the Barberinis' Baroque palaces in the handsomely austere late- Georgian church of St John at Hackney. …another revelatory and inspiring release by Erin Headley, and Atalante. Andrew O'Connor International Record Review exquisitely recorded performances by the singers and players of Atalante  This beautiful CD, with exquisitely recorded performances by the singers and players of Atalante directed by Erin Headley, makes an irresistible case for the wider dissemination of this very fine music. In addition to the lovely and dramatic singing there is some superb viol playing, ... With the generous acoustic of St John’s Hackney, we are transported to a baroque Roman Academy to enjoy some of the most refined music of the period as did the great Roman aristocratic families of the time. D James Ross Early Music Review