A Pleasing Melancholy

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

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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

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

Lachrimae: Anna Prohaska

Lachrimae
Anna Prohaska & Arcangelo
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. 2 August 2015

The latest in the series of candle-lit concerts in the Jacobean Sam Wanamaker Playhouse on London’s South Bank featured soprano Anna Prohaska with Arcangelo and a programme based around the theme of melancholy, under the title of ‘Lachrimae’. Devised by Anna Prohaska, the pieces chosen reflected the wide range of compositional possibilities used by early Baroque composers from England and Italy. The music ranged from intimate Purcell settings to dramatic Italian opera scenes.

Anna ProhaskaI first reviewed Anna Prohaska in 2012 Wigmore Hall concert (broadcast live on Radio 3) and noted that “… If I had read Anna Prohaska’s CV (full of names like the Berliner Philharmoniker, Weiner Philharmoniker, Deutsche Staatoper Berlin) before I heard her sing, I would have wondered why on earth the Academy of Ancient Music had booked her”. But, for the ‘early music’ vocal scene, she was a real find. I don’t know what, or how, she sings with these orchestral big boys, but her beautifully eloquent and pure voice is just the thing for this repertoire, as was her presentation. She is of impeccable musical stock – her father and mother were an opera director and singer, her grandfather and great-grandfather a conductor and composer respectively.  She has a very attractively un-diva like and engaging stage manner, giving the impression of singing with us, rather that at us, and involving us in the emotional turmoil of the various pieces.  She has an exquisitely warm timbre with a slightly mezzo-ish tinge and demonstrated a thorough understanding of her chosen repertoire (and its wide range of emotions), with fine da capo elaborations and the rare ability to trill properly. Her use of rhetoric to accent emotive moments was spot on, as was her heart-wrenching cries of “Gabriel” in Purcell’s ‘Tell me, some pitying angel’ – one of those moments when silence can be more intense than music. Continue reading