Lachrimæ Lyræ

Lachrimæ Lyræ: Tears of Exile
Sokratis Sinopoulos, Lacheron, François Joubert-Caillet
Outhere/Fuga Libera, FUG 753. 65’38

If you thought the sound of a consort of viols was etherial, plaintive and evocative, wait till you hear this exotic combination of a viol consort combined with a Greek lyra. Taking John Dowland’s 1604 Lachrimæ or Seaven Teares as its point of departure, the recording aims to “paint a transverse and stateless picture of melancholy, set against the joyful hope of a shining future that appears in these improvisations and timeless Anglo-Byzantine dances”. Continue reading

To Dowland or not to Dowland

To Dowland or not to Dowland
Mike Fentross, lute
Zefir  ZEF9658. 62’52

The rather curious title, which seems to turn ‘Dowland’ into a verb, could perhaps have been ‘Dowland or not Dowland’, as the programme is made up of anonymous lute pieces from various manuscripts that, it is argued, are actually by Dowland. This assumption is based on research by archivist Andre Nieuwlaat who, working with lutenist Mike Fentross, made a selection of 15 pieces from the many possible examples by using “… musical intuition, by the essence of the pieces, and by constantly asking the question: do I recognise Dowland’s hand in this? The overall quality of the pieces to choose from was very impressive, and the answer to this question was: ‘ Yes, I recognise Dowland in these works, without a shadow of a doubt’. Dowland’s musical signature is unmistakable”. Continue reading

Music for the Mayflower

They that in ships unto the sea down go
Music for the Mayflower
Passamezzo
Resonus  RES10263. 61’23

It is 400 years since the Mayflower set sail for the New World. It had been commissioned by English Puritans, along with another ship, the Speedwell, bringing Puritans that had earlier moved to Leiden to escape religious persecution in England. The complicated initial stages of the journey started in July 1620 from the River Thames just east of the City of London. The Mayflower waited to join the Speedwell in Southampton Water and both ships set sail for America in early August, calling into Dartmouth for repairs. They reached well beyond the Scilly Isles but again had to return to Plymouth for further repairs. The Speedwell gave up, and some of their passengers joined Mayflower which finally set off alone. Continue reading

17th-Century Playlist

17th-Century Playlist
Ed Lyon, Theatre of the Ayre
Delphian DCD34220. 61’30

This debut recording from tenor Ed Lyon reflects his own playlist of music from the 17th-century. Many of them have that catchy ear-worm tendency to provide an immediate hook, although hearing 15 such pieces one after the other might help to reduce that effect.The recital opens with Alessandro’s exquisite Misero, Cosi va, a reflection on the pain of true love and, in the opera Eliigsbalo, a welcome relief from the sheer awfulness if the titular tyrannical teenage Roman Emperor Heliogabalus. The delicately sensitive opening instrumentalist realisation of the four repeated bass notes sets the scene for a recording of vocal and instrumental brilliance.

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A Pleasing Melancholy

A Pleasing Melancholy
John Dowland and others
Chelys Consort of Viols, Emma Kirkby
BIS 2283. 72’13

CHelys.jpg

One of the concerts I reviewed during the 2018 London International Exhibition of Early Music was given by the  Chelys Consort of Viols with soprano Rebecca Hickey stepping in at short notice to replace the indisposed Dame Emma Kirkby. Their programme, and this CD, ‘A Pleasing Melancholy’, was built around all seven of John Dowland’s 1604 Lachrimae settings, interspersed with songs by Robert Jones, Tobias Hume, William Wigthorpe, John Danyel and Tobias Hume,. The title refers to a quote from Robert Burton’s 1621 Anatomy of Melancholy – “Many men are melancholy by hearing music, but it is a pleasing melancholy that it causeth“. My review of that concert mentioned that “a ‘pleasing melancholy’ it proved to be, with excellent playing by the five viol players of Chelys and guest lutenist Jamie Akers, and outstanding singing from Rebecca Hickey, who many will know from Stile Antico“. This CD is for those who were not at the concert, or for whom there really is nothing like a Dame. Continue reading

Matthew Wadsworth: Late Night Lute

Late Night Lute
Matthew Wadsworth, lute and theorbo
Deux-Elles DXL 1175

Dowland, Rosseter, Johnson, Piccinini, Kapsberger, and Stephen Goss

I Late Night Lute Album Cover - Matthew Wadsworthcan vividly remember the first time I heard Matthew Wadsworth playing, in 1999, in the bowels of the Royal Academy of Music, during the debut of what was then a student group, all four of whom (Kati Debretzeni, Alison McGillivray, Matthew Wadsworth, and Robert Howarth) have gone on to achieve prominence in the world of music. This CD stems from an overheard comment at a late night gathering of friends, when somebody searching through CDs commented “I need lute, late night lute”. In the intervening years, the frequency of invitations to present late night lute concerts reinforced the feeling that there was indeed something of the night about lute music.  Continue reading

Dowland: Lachrimae

John Dowland: Lachrimae or Seven Tears
Phantasm, Elizabeth Kenny, lute
Linn Records CKD527. 57’00

Dowland: Lachrimae or Seven TearsWhat a gorgeous CD! As well as Dowland’s famed seven ‘tears’ (lasting around 26’) we also have a balancing succession of dances, many based on Dowland songs. The pieces in the 1604 Lachrimae publication were used by generations of other composers’ in their own versions and variations. Key to viol consort music like this is the balance between the instruments. Unlike some of their concerts, where the treble viol can dominate, here the balance is perfect, not just between the five viols, but also with the delicate tone of the lute, played with superb conviction and musicality by Elizabeth Kenny. Continue reading