Meraviglia d'amore means the marvel of love, and in the graphics of this Accent label release, recorded in 2001 and released 16 years later, you do indeed get the promised love songs from 17th century Italy. Those songs are lovely, but they're not really the main attraction here, as suggested by the fact that the largest print in the graphics billing goes not to tenor Marco Beasley, but to the small ensemble Private Musicke, offering various combinations of Baroque guitar, archlute, theorbo, viola da gamba, and cello. They play instrumental pieces from various manuscripts by a group of Italian guitarist/composer/intabulators, most of whom are all but unknown and about whom very little information survives. This is, then, one of those rare recordings that's of a rather specialized nature but is still entirely listenable and even enchanting for the general listener. The repertory represented here as a whole is semi-popular: these aren't intricate polyphonic songs, but villanelles, canzonettas, and solo madrigals. The instrumental pieces are even more varied: there are a few examples of the canzona transcriptions that often show up in collections of early instrumental music, but most of the pieces come from other popular traditions. There are pieces for the "chitarra spagnola" in a variety of dance rhythms, early ground bass pieces, and intabulations of several kinds of songs. It's a program that might have been heard in the 17th century itself, and Beasley's dulcet tones make a nice change from the ubiquitous countertenors. Sample one of the guitar pieces, like the Sonate di chitarra spagnola (surely one of the earlier works with a form of the "sonata" title) of Antonio Carbonchi, a composer of whom none but specialists will have heard. Superb studio sound from Austrian Radio is another major draw. Highly recommended for Renaissance-Baroque enthusiasts and general listeners alike.
Meraviglia d'amore: Love Songs from 17th-century Italy Review
by James Manheim