This is the first of a 2-CD set which illustrates the kind of music sung and played by the women musicians of the courts of Parma and Ferrara in the second half of the sixteenth century. These women were among the first professional women musicians, and they practised their trade at the peril of their reputations. Some of them did not survive their activities - one was murdered by her husband on suspicion of adultery, another was ostracised by the court for appearing too eager to sing. This disc concentrates on the established madrigal repertoire written by Cipriano de Rore and his pupils Giaches de Wert, Luzzasco Luzzaschi and Marc'Antonio Ingegneri.
Musica Secreta, with guest soprano Emily an Evera, continues its rediscovery of early-music repertoire for female ensemble, Dangerous Graces
being the first of two albums developed from the Southampton University project "Female musicians at the courts of Ferrara and Parma, 1565-1589". The music, by Cipriano de Rore and his pupils Luzzasco Luzzaschi and Giaches de Wert, was originally performed by a once-celebrated ensemble of virtuoso women musicians at the court of Duke Alfonso II d'Este. The women freely adapted their repertoire, transposing vocal parts or transferring them to instrumental lines, and adding their own elaborate ornamentations. Musica Secreta haw sought to recreate the sound and spirit of this late-Renaissance ensemble with the musicians arranging their own parts, developing continuo lines during rehearsal and giving free reign to improvisation. The result is a refreshing sound in the sometimes sexless world of early music, from Catherine King's sombre lament O Sonno, o della queta humida ombrosa
to the sensual ensemble Tirsi morir volea
, in which lovers die "a death so sweet and delightful, that they returned to life to die again". Though the church acoustic does not reflect the original secular performances, which were at time closer to modern cabaret, this is a unique collection restoring with seriousness and integrity a forgotten part of female musical history.--Gary S Dalkin