Decca selected absolute top performances in one series: Florilegium. I was a fan and tried to buy as many as I could find. They were not easy to find, and usually I was only able to find them at my Queensday salesman at the Rozengracht. What I have I treasure though: beautiful recordings, well performed, delicate works. This is one of them.
Dame Emma Kirkby has that typical clear English voice. She is perhaps best known for her recording of songs by Hildegard von Bingen, under the poetic title A feather on the breath of God. A recording I have on CD, but alas, not on record. Maybe I’ll find it before the end of this blog!
Kirkby worked a lot with my heroes, like Christopher Hogwood and Anthony Rooley. She worked so much with the last they have a son. So much for relationships at work.
On this record she sings with Judith Nelson in songs for two voices. Italy in the early seventeenth century saw a growing interest in this kind of work. The limit of two voices give the performer enough freedom to enhance the text without being restrained by a more elaborate accompaniment. More voices make it more complicated, and that inhibits the freedom in the performance.
A duet with bass still gave the composer means to add intricate effects and show off his trade. If it were only one voice this would not have been possible. So duets were the middle road, kind of.