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Twelve Days of Christmas: Nobil Donna

available at Amazon
Nobil Donna, S. LeBlanc, La Nef,
A. Weimann

(released on September 28, 2010)
ATMA ACD2 2605 | 69'03"
The fine Canadian soprano Suzie LeBlanc first came on the Ionarts radar at a 2005 concert with the Washington Bach Consort, and we last reviewed her on an outstanding Messiaen disc. The latest of her several solo discs is a rather pleasing survey of music largely by composers under the patronage of the Barberini family in Rome. This includes, most notably, sections of works on the Orpheus legend by Stefano Landi and Luigi Rossi, as well as other solo cantatas and instrumental pieces by Marco Marazzoli (Nobil donna in rozzo manto, which provided the title of the disc), Benedetto Ferrari, Giovanni Kapsberger, Giovanni Vitali, Bernardo Storace, and Girolamo Frescobaldi. That combination of relatively rare composers would probably be enough to sway us to approval of this beautiful disc, but it is the performances that tip the scale. LeBlanc, with excellent (but not overdone) diction, delights in the Italian texts, like Giovanni-Felice Sances' Accenti queruli (on the same ground bass pattern as Monteverdi's celebrated madrigal Zefiro torna, one of many pieces on a repeating bass line). Her pure, agile, and supple voice has a clarion sound on Rossi's Lasciate Averno, from Rossi's Orfeo, but also reveals a supreme control of soft sound and minute, expressive swells in the moving lament Dormite, begl'occhi, from the same work. In Landi's Mentre cantiam, from La Morte di Orfeo, LeBlanc unfurls a dizzying ornamented duet with the cornetto, only one example of the truly superlative playing from the chamber-sized ensemble La Nef, especially the various types of cornetto (Matthew Jennejohn), Baroque violin (Chloe Meyers), and the theorbo and guitar (Sylvain Bergeron).

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