With as many as twenty strings and a nearly flat bridge, four or more strings could be played together on the instrument to produce beautiful and ethereal sustained chords and, according to its inventor in 1505, ‘full and consummate harmony’. What better instrument to serve the post-Monteverdi style of extravagant expressiveness! ATALANTE Erin Headley's award-winning ensemble Atalante is named in honour of Leonardo da Vinci's friend and pupil Atalante Migliorotti, the lirone's inventor. That magic and hauntingly beautiful bowed instrument has been Erin Headley’s domain since 1980, through an astonishing number of performances and recordings that have been acclaimed worldwide. In the 17th century the lirone was associated with the lament, a genre that first appeared during the generation of Monteverdi and reached its culmination in Rome. Atalante's luxurious continuo band of  triple harp, chitarrone, keyboards, viol consort and lirone accompany a sublimely dark repertoire that has been languishing in the Vatican Library for 300 years. Atalante's début in October 2009 at the Southbank Centre in London – in staged performances of the laments of Artemisia, Helen of Troy, Mary Magdalene and the Blessed Virgin – was a revelatory experience for public and critics alike:
The lirone was utterly beguiling – one felt transported to a 17th-century ‘camera privata’, musing on the bleak messages of mortality and transience. Classical Music Magazine For extravagant, exotic beauty, the highlight of the weekend has to be the soundworld of Atalante's lirones, viols, lutes, harp and keyboards playing Rossi and Marazzoli's opulent ‘vanitas' laments. The Observer
Atalante's exploration and revival of this fascinating repertoire, including the staging and filming of it, has received continuing support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council of Great Britain, making it possible to offer the public a new and exciting, fully immersive experience. To date Atalante have made four recordings in their series Reliquie di Roma – music by Luigi Rossi, Marco Marazzoli, Giacomo Carissimi, Domenico Mazzocchi, Bernardo Pasquini and Alessandro Stradella – three discs of which have already been released by Destino Classics (Nimbus Alliance) and received the highest critical acclaim. Filmed video clips of staged versions of the works with subtitles can be seen on YouTube and in HD on Vimeo.
ARTISTS Erin Headley Thirty years of performing as an internationally acclaimed viola da gamba and lirone player with such top-flight ensembles as Les Arts Florissants, Tragicomedia and many others, countless recordings on major labels, and her unique status as the world's leading authority on the lirone have made Erin Headley preeminent in the field of early music. Before the founding of Atalante, Erin Headley had already made over 100 CDs with Harmonia Mundi France, Erato, Virgin, Hyperion, ECM, Teldec and Deutsche Grammophon. She is the author of the lirone articles in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (second edition) and The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, and has appeared with her instrument in interviews on BBC Radio 4 on the Today programme and (twice) on Woman's Hour. To further her research on the lirone, Erin Headley was awarded in 2007 a prestigious Arts and Humanities Research Council fellowship in residence at the University of Southampton, where she is now an honorary fellow. In 2011 she received a Distinguished Alumnus award from Pennsylvania State University, and in the spring of 2013 she was musician in residence at the prestigious Villa I Tatti, Harvard University's Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence. To ensure that the instrument and its Italian repertoire flourish as they did in the 17th century, Erin Headley has produced and presented staged performances, recordings, videos, masterclasses, lectures, published articles and performing editions to reach a larger audience. She has hand-picked all of the members of Atalante, who come from the UK, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain and the USA. The core group for small tours includes: Jordanian-American soprano Nadine Balbeisi received a bachelor's degree in voice from the University of Michigan, and a further degree from the Hochschule für Musik, Cologne where she studied with Barbara Schlick. She went on to establish her international solo career in Germany singing oratorio, chamber music and opera, from Baroque to contemporary. With a particular interest in early music, she co-founded the duo Cantar alla Viola with viola da gambist Fernando Marín; several of their recordings of Spanish and English music are available on Quartz and Destino Classics. Her recordings of Italian laments with Atalante received outstanding reviews and were hailed by MusicWeb International as Recording of the Year 2011. A prizewinner of the Kammeroper Schloss Rheinsberg International Competition, Nadine was also awarded a lieder scholarship at the Franz Schubert Institute in Austria, and in 2013 she receives the Emerging Artist Award from the University of Michigan. www.cantarallaviola.com Theodora Baka was born in Greece and studied at the Larisa Conservatory; she later graduated from the Hochschule for Music, Drama and Media in Hannover with opera and chamber music degrees, and went on to take prizes at the Techni Panhellenic and the Göttingen Handel Society voice competitions in 2000–01. She has sung many Baroque opera roles (Monteverdi, Handel, Vivaldi, Caldara and Domenico Scarlatti) in Europe's premier opera houses, and has most notably recorded with Alan Curtis and Il Complesso Barocco (Virgin Classics). Chamber music and song recitals have taken her to Europe, Israel and Egypt with ensembles such as Fretwork, Latinatas, Ex Silentio and Atalante. She has also sung and recorded mediaeval music (Nell autunno di Bisanzio on Talanton) and traditional Greek songs (Myrtate on Raumklang). Soprano Katherine Watson graduated in 2008 from Trinity College, Cambridge, and then won a place in the prestigious Le Jardin des Voix, and has subsequently performed with Les Arts Florissants under the direction of William Christie, in the major opera houses and concert halls of Europe and the USA. In 2012 she received the John Christie Award at Glyndebourne. Her repertoire covers most periods, but she is particularly noted in the operas, oratorios and chamber music of Monteverdi, Cavalli, Carissimi, Rossi, Mazzocchi, Purcell, Charpentier, Bach, Handel and Rameau. MusicWeb International praised her for her title role in Atalante’s recording of the Oratorio of St Catherine. ‘She portrays St Catherine perfectly, with an impressive account of the recitatives in truly speechlike manner. The beauty and sweetness of her voice is suitable for her arias, whose expressive character is fully explored.’ From the Tölzer Knabenchor as a boy alto to singing as a soloist in major concert halls, festivals and opera houses, the German baritone Christian Immler has spent many years making and recording music of the highest quality all around the world. He studied with Rudolf Piernay at the Guildhall School, where he won the Schubert Prize in 1998; in 2001 he took first prize in the International Nadia et Lili Boulanger Competition in Paris. He is well known for his solo singing of Bach, Handel, Haydn and Mozart and for numerous operatic roles with such conductors as Philippe Herreweghe, Andrew Parrott, Michel Corboz, Riccardo Chailly, William Christie, Marc Minkowski, Ivor Bolton and Harry Christophers. Lieder recitals with the pianist Helmut Deutsch have taken him to venues all over the world, including the Frick Collection in New York and the Wigmore Hall and Kings Place in London. He is professor of voice at the Conservatory Lausanne- Fribourg. Siobhán Armstrong has eclectic interests, performing on Hollywood film soundtracks and at the world’s biggest traditional music festivals, but is more often in Europe’s eminent opera houses playing early Italian repertoire. She founded and chairs the Historical Harp Society of Ireland and has performed, recorded, taught and lectured widely. Siobhán works with some of the most prestigious early music soloists, ensembles and directors in Europe. Harp, piano and voice studies in childhood led to her reading Music at Trinity College, Dublin. Further studies in historical harps at the Akademie für Alte Musik in Bremen have led her to specialize in period instrument performance; in particular, the accompaniment of vocal music: plainchant, polyphony, early Irish song and 17th century opera. In 2012, The Arts Council of Ireland awarded her funding to produce a series of CDs with her own ensemble, The Irish Consort, documenting musical practice in Ireland 1500–1800. www.siobhanarmstrong.com Jörg Jacobi is a keyboard player, composer and conductor; he is music director at Unser Lieben Frauen in Bremen. He studied harpsichord and organ at the Akademie für Alte Musik, Bremen, with Harold Vogel, Klaus Eichhorn and Gerhard Kastner, and in 1994 he received a diploma in church music at the Hochschule für Künste, Bremen. As a continuo player and director he appears regularly at major European music festivals, and he has created numerous radio programmes for Elbipolis, Weser Renaissance and Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie. His dozens of solo, chamber and opera recordings include works of Bach, Buxtehude, Handel, Telemann, Lully, Delalande and the Roman school of Luigi Rossi. He is principal editor of Edition Baroque, which publishes all of Atalante's repertoire as well as works newly discovered through his own extensive researches. www.edition-baroque.de
In 1975 Erin Headley made a major breakthrough when she discovered a manuscript of Bernardo Pasquini’s oratorio ‘Cain e Abel’ in the Vatican Library. Cain's lament was conveyed through ultra-expressive recitative with metamorphoses of moods, astonishing harmonic shifts, dramatic use of dissonance – and with the specific indication for lirone accompaniment.
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