Reliquie Di Roma I: Lamentarium

The generation of Roman composers after Monteverdi, led by Luigi Rossi and Marco Marazzoli, intensified the rich and rhetorically powerful poetry of their contemporaries to create a new musical aesthetic that was sensual, passionate, ecstatic, even erotic. Rossi and Marazzoli produced sacred and secular operas and oratorios, and vocal chamber music, of which their combined output of solo and ensemble cantatas numbers over 700.

Rossi was the leading composer of 17th-century bel canto, the new elegant and lyrical style of melodic writing and ultra expressive recitative that was a reaction to the earlier, text-dominated stilo rappresentativo. The triple-time arias in particular are full of his unmistakable suavity. However, in his lament of the Magdalene, Rossi conveys the penitent’s torturous spiritual and sensual journey almost entirely through extravagant recitative. Only a brief aria, whose long-awaited arrival comes near the end, delivers the poignant moment of resignation and final despair.

Erin Headley’s sensational new group Atalante is named in honour of Leonardo da Vinci’s friend and pupil Atalante Migliorotti, inventor of the lirone. That magic and ethereal bowed instrument has been Erin Headley’s domain for the past 30 years, through an astonishing number of performances and recordings that have been acclaimed worldwide.



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Recording of the year 2011 Johan van Veen

Southampton University Creative and Performing Arts Fellow Erin Headley has released the first CD of her new recording series Reliquie di Roma (Relics of Rome) to widespread critical acclaim. Entitled Lamentarium, the disc is based on Headley's research on repertoire starring the lirone, a haunting and ethereal bowed instrument favoured for early modern vocal accompaniments.

In the 17th century the lirone was said to 'transport the soul and elevate the spirit'. Its true realm was the lament, a genre embracing the whole spectrum of human emotions and which reached its height in Rome in the 1630s. Headley’s ensemble Atalante is named in honour of Leonardo da Vinci’s friend and pupil Atalante Migliorotti, inventor of the lirone. Their luxurious continuo band of triple harp, chitarrones, keyboards, viol consort and lirone greatly enhances the sublimely dark and sensual vocal repertoire, including music not heard for over 300 years.

Reliquie di Roma celebrates the generation of Roman composers after Monteverdi, of which Luigi Rossi was the main figure. His suave and lyrical melodic writing and ultra-emotive recitative was the finest achievement of the original bel canto school, which also numbered such distinguished composers as Marco Marazzoli, and Domenico and Virgilio Mazzocchi. Lamentarium offers laments of the aging Helen of Troy warning of the destruction caused by a beautiful face, and of Artemisia cautioning against excessive grieving, Mary Magdalene’s torturous spiritual and sensual journey at the Crucifixion, and the revelations of the Blessed Virgin.

‘Breathtaking performances of delicious music'
Marc Rochester, Gramophone

‘One of the best recordings I have heard all year’
Johan van Veen, MusicWeb International

‘I can’t believe that Lamentarium will not be in my top ten recordings of the year’
Tim Thurston, RTE Lyric FM Ireland

‘If your head has ever been turned or your heart pierced by Monteverdi's more famous laments, you'll probably love this’
Michael Dervan, Irish Times

The disc explores the work of those composers associated with the Barberinis (Pope Urban VIII and his family) who encouraged a culture of “extravagant repentance, lamenting and religious ecstasy”. These elements are perfectly portrayed in these breathtaking performances. Marc Rochester Gramophone Magazine

Erin Headley is the leading performer 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.  

Andy Gill, The Independent - 4 stars

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