Album: Atalante, Erin Headley, Lamentarium (Destino Classics/Nimbus Alliance)


Erin Headley is the leading performer - probably the sole performer, in fact - on the lirone, a 17th century precursor of the cello with between 9 and 14 strings, whose sound was said to move the emotions uncontrollably.

It's matched here in the early-music ensemble Atalante with viols, harpsichord, chittarone and double-harp, in stirring renditions by soprano Nadine Balbeisi and mezzo Theodora Baka of little-performed works by such as Luigi Rossi and Marco Marazzoli. The laments - long and involved plaints of widows, Mary Magdalene and, in Marazzoli's "Cadute erano al fine", an aged Helen Of Troy contemplating her decrepitude ("For you, Helen, Troy was vanquished?"), are sensually melancholy, indulgences in heightened emotions. The lirone, meanwhile, is most effectively showcased in Rossi's shorter bel canto pieces, where its complex, bittersweet warmth comes through most clearly.

Download this: Passacaglia del Seigneur Louigi; Cadute erano al fine; Piangete occhi, piangete; Peccantum me quotidie