As our sweet Cords with Discords mixed be: English Renaissance Consort Music
Resonus RES10155. 67’15
Music by Robert Parsons, William Byrd, John Dowland, Christopher Tye, Edward Blankes, Jerome Bassano, William Brade and Antony Holborne
There are some people, even in the fairly rarefied early music world, who would rather pluck out their eyes than listen to a recorder consort. In normal circumstance I would just warn such people that this probably isn’t the CD for them. But this is an exception that might convert some doubters. Consortium5 (Oonagh Lee, Kathryn Corrigan, Gail Macleod, Roselyn Maynard, Emily Bloom) have established themselves as some of the most exciting and committed performers of early and contemporary music on recorders. And this CD demonstrates why they deserve that reputation.
Covering the whole realm of English 16th and early 17th century consort music, this is a fascinating survey of one of England’s most important contributions to music. Although few of the pieces were intended for recorder consort, they all sound well on the instruments. And those instruments are an excellent matching set of ten Bassano recorders made by Adriana Breukink, helping to produce a coherent and well-balanced sound. Such is the balance that, when musical lines are passed from one instrument to another, it is difficult to recognise that change. Consortium5 manage to avoid the things that recorder-haters dislike, for example, high-pitch screeching, annoying sub-harmonics (that actually result from tuning that is too perfect) and the general Hey Nonny No bounciness of some of the music of this period.
Any CD with 34 pieces (here ranging from a mere 46 seconds to just one track that exceeds 4 minutes) is going to be difficult to plan, but the way these pieces are contrasted made for an attractive programme. The shortest piece is the little Coranto by William Brade, given a delightfully percussive performance by Consortium5. Here, and in other places, they use tonguing to give added articulation to occasional key notes and phrases. The variety of texture that they produce makes this a compelling recording. And the music is gloriously varied. Excellent notes by Peter Holman set the scene and describe the three principal genres of consort music of this period – pieces based on the In Nomine chant, on dance forms, and the fantasia style developed from the earlier madrigal. Christopher Tye’s In Nomine: ‘Seldom sene’ shows how pieces based on a single chant theme can produce a wealth of different style, in this case with a sudden break into a jaunty triple time rhythm. Edward Blankes A Phancy is a particularly attractive example of the latter, free form of composition. Recommended, particularly for recorder haters!