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Italian tenor Marco Beasley celebrates his 60th birthday on this disc with nine exquisitely melodious love songs from 17th-century Italy. The ace is the title track, Meraviglia d’amore, Marvel of Love, by the Venetian Biagio Marini – a real gondolier’s gem, catchy as a cold in shapely phrases, balanced symmetry and simple, intriguing harmony.

Beasley’s light tenor has a plaintive, seductive quality, irresistible to the ear when gentle – which, in this repertoire, is always. He has clear enunciation and illustrates the text with delicate inflections, a sigh here, a laugh there and idiomatic ornaments everywhere.

Two songs by Girolamo Kapsberger feature a walking bass-line, no doubt influenced by the composer’s mastery of the theorbo with its unfretted bass strings, played here by Luciano Contini. He is one quarter of the accompanying band Private Musicke led by Pierre Pitzl. Together or individually, they intersperse the songs with instrumental items – mostly ciaconnas and toccatas – including an infectious ground bass by Antonio Carbonchi and a richly compelling canzona by Girolamo Frescobaldi, for viola da gamba and ’cello, which comes across as a lovers’ dialogue without words.

A puzzling sleeve-note lists the tracks, prints the texts with no mention of lyricists, anonymous or otherwise, has photos of the performers without captions and discusses the music in the form of a somewhat throwaway conversation between the apparently fictional characters ‘Bernardo and Pietro’. Who are they and what are their credentials? We are not told. It would have been interesting to interview Marco on his anniversary.

Rick Jones Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2017 - ©Rhinegold Publishing