It is an error of modern times to treat music written in the distant past as sacrosanct in all its parameters. Certainly the basic musical dimensions are indeed fixed – but this still leaves much room for development in the execution. Very different variations and treatments of a work can be equally valid provided that they are executed in each case with the necessary care and expertise.

Since 1990 the group ‘Musica Secreta’, made up exclusively of female voices, has been engaged in discovering the role of women in early modern music. In this it is on the one hand concerned with the relatively rare compositions by women, but also on the other with the treatment of works for different ensembles. The theoretical and musical derivation and foundation are persuasive, reflecting the continual search for the probable and the possible.

This recording shows that a carefully chosen repertoire certainly makes this approach accessible. The collection with motets for five voices by Alessandro Grandi (1577-1630), who was later to become deputy chapelmaster to Claudio Monteverdi, and subsequently active for many years in Bergamo, published in 1614, and subsequently republished many times, presents the state of music at the beginning of the 17 th century : technically, aesthetically and tonally many-faceted, and reflecting the major change which marked the era, Grandi comes across as a powerful composer. This extensive CD is completed by recordings which originated in Celestial Sirens’ multimedia project “Fallen” [Traps], and, among others, with works by Josquin des Prez and Giaches de Wert.

‘Musica Secreta’ bring together with the sopranos Deborah Roberts, Tessa Bonner and Katharine Hewitt, the Mezzosoprano Catherine King and the Alto Carline Trevor as profiled soloists, whose voices truly blend together to create a genuine ensemble sound. Strong and precise, the additional voices impact on the overall tone, with all the voices intoning brilliantly and articulating together. The compositions are precisely arranged, and are presented in such a way as to display their numerous strong points. All in all the ensemble achieves a high level of vocal technique, matched by the superbly arranged ornaments. In the absence of a bass register, which the piece really needs, the accompanying organ, chitarrones and harp support the vocals in the lower registers.

The result is a lively and full value interpretation, showing no weakness in comparison to the original mixed voice conception in terms of the effectiveness of the piece. With careful transposition, and the instruments filling the bass parts, this altogether succeeds as a convincing interpretation.
Interpretation 4/5; Sound quality 4/5; Repertoire 3/5;

—Matthias Lange