Armonia Celeste is a US-based Early music ensemble of three women’s voices and plucked-string period instruments. They specialise in Italian music of the late Renaissance and early Baroque – so as soon as I could I purchased their 2015 album Udite, amanti: Music from Seventeenth-Century Barberini Courts which contains eighteen tracks of excellent music. I knew about them from their Twitter page. (This social media platform has become the place where I’ve found people and organisations which enjoy the same things I do. I mean, there is a lot of superficial, brainless rubbish on Twitter, but if you do it the right way, it is a treasure!).
As you may have heard in the above video, this first track, “Udite, amanti, opra d’amor novella” is a great example of how well this ensemble works. The vocalists along with the two instrumentalists create a truly pleasing aural experience.
This glorious album features music from lesser-known composers such as Luigi Rossi (c. 1597 – 1653), Marco Marazzoli (1602? – 1662), Giacomo Carissimi (1605 – 1674), Gerolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643), Marc’Antonio Pasqualini (1614 – 1691), Alessandro Piccinini (1566 – ca. 1638).
What were the “Barberini courts”? Well, the Barberini were a very powerful family in Rome and they lived in the magnificent Palazzo Barberini. In The Cambridge History of Seventeenth Century Music, Tim Carter and John Butt state that, “In 1623, Cardinal Maffeo Barberini was elected Pope Urban VIII” (page 223). That alone shows how powerful the family was, and then when you factor in the fact that this Pope had three nephews who were Cardinals – they became even more powerful. The Barberini family were major patrons of the arts – and music was certainly important to them. One musician who benefited greatly from Barberini patronage was the castrato singer and Baroque composer, Marc’Antonio Pasqualini.
You can purchase the album as either a compact disc or as a MP3 download. I chose the latter and am very happy with it. You can visit Armonia Celeste’s official website as well for more information about the ensemble.