Little of the music of Henry Rowley Bishop (1786-1855) is now heard apart
from the ever-popular Home Sweet Home. I have happy memories from
my young days of some of his songs for Shakespeare productions which under
him became "ballad operas". Lo Here the Gentle Lark is known from
Galli-Curci's famous 78 recording. Bid Me Discourse is on another
78, by Margaret Ritchie as is Should He Upbraid. The first and third
of these are present here, most beautifully sung by Susan Bickley, who, along
with another-equally stylish and delightful soprano, Julia Gooding, are the
most featured soloists with nine and five tracks respectively, one of them
a splendid duet version of Orpheus With His Lute.
Andrew King is the most prominent male soloist; all the singers, fifteen
soloists and a chorus, do well, as do the orchestra who play from an edition
prepared from Bishop's own score in the British Library. In this sense the
recordings are world premieres though very few, apart from Lo Here the
Gentle Lark, have been recorded anywhere before. Three of the nineteen
tracks are Bishop's arrangements from Ravenscroft/Morley, Arne and J.C. Smith.
His own compositions reflect the influence of Mozart and enjoyably so, even
if Bishop's undoubted talent never approaches Mozart's genius. Some orchestral
touches, like the glass harmonica part in one of the two Who is Sylvias,
are of interest. Andrew Pinnock's booklet note is knowledgeable and sympathetic
and all the words are appended.
This excellently recorded disc sheds enlightenment on a long dimly-lit but
far from discreditable corner of British music.