This is the first of two excellent discs of Italian music of the 17th Century. The music is characterised by the "Fantastic" style of the time which, as Peter Allsop explains in the excellent notes, combined virtuosity and experimentalism and it is wonderful stuff. Some composers like Frescobaldi and Biaggio Marini are fairly familiar (largely through the excellent work of ensembles like Romanesca and the Palladian Ensemble) but others were completely new to me. All the music, however, is terrific; it features a variety of combinations of instruments from solo pieces to large ensembles and is thrilling in places and tenderly moving in others. The whole programme is a delight and often a revelation.
It is greatly helped by the brilliant performances. The Purcell Quartet have been making first-rate discs for many years and these both sand with the very best of them. They are joined by the wonderful His Majesty's Sagbutts and Cornetts (and the excellent Jakob Lindberg on chittarone) and together they produce something really special. The play with an apparently effortless virtuosity, terrific verve and a real joy in what they are doing.
The recorded sound is excellent with a perfect acoustic and balance, the presentation is attractive and the notes readable and very informative. Both volumes of this set have given me a lot of pleasure and continue to do so, and I recommend them very warmly.