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The sacred and popular in 13th century Italy.
Quartetto Vocale Giovanna Marini/Micrologus
Opus111 OPS30-277 61m DDD.
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Rather like Hyperion's 'English Songbook', this collection could be named, 'Italian Songbook', in fact it goes deep into 13th century folklore retrieving elements of song that have been long forgotten. There are 18 pieces recorded here, some with accompanying instrumentation, others naked of accompaniment but all feature distinctive folkoristic elements and dialects that really test the mettle of Giovanna Marini's Quartetto Vocale. Not that there seem to be any problems with their delivery which is at times stunningly faithful and ravishingly virtuosic, they made this listener gape in awe on several occasions! The songs come from various regions including Sicily, Campania, Calabria, Lazio and Sardegna, but it is apparent that the culture was heavily active in the southern parts of the country. In Malta we have similar vocal trends that have been forgotten over the ages and are also being revived. It is a pity that with the pace of progress most native elements are being neglected especially in the southern Mediterranean which is an area intrinsically rich and brimming with unique cultural influences. This disc, sumptuously recorded and professionally executed may move some way to redress the balance.

Gerald Fenech



Gerald Fenech will also review 'Etnika', a CD that revives traditional Maltese folkloristic instruments shortly in these pages.

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