Nadine Balbeisi and Fernando Marín are the duo Cantar alla Viola, and their first recording on Quartz is an album of the complete polyphonic music of Juan Blas de Castro, a Spanish composer of the late Renaissance era. Balbeisi's pure and refined soprano voice combines beautifully with the soft harmonies of Marín's bowed vihuela and lyra-viol, in delicate performances that are striking for their ethereal transparency and intimate expressions. The 20 songs on this 2016 release represent Blas de Castro's surviving tonos, all settings of verses by his friend, the poet and playwright Lope de Vega, 18 of which are found in the Cancionero de Sablonara and two in the Tonos Castellanos manuscript. This is a small fraction of the 771 tonos Blas de Castro was reported to have composed, so Balbeisi and Marín have not only revived a style of performance that has been neglected, they have also recorded a rare body of work that deserves to be performed more widely.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson