This it seems is the
first disc totally devoted to the music
of Philip Rosseter. This is curious
as some of his songs are performed and
are often anthologized, sometimes in
cheap and accessible editions. Most
importantly they are fairly easy to
bring off at least at a superficial
level and are especially tuneful.
Those who tackle Thomas
Campion, a close associate of Rosseter,
or the songs of Thomas Morley will find
these pieces very much to their liking.
And straightaway I should say how delightful
these performances are and that James
Gilchrist is an ideal exponent in vocal
quality, lovely natural diction and
sensitivity of performance.
Rosseter had his songs
published alongside those of Campion
in "‘A Booke of Ayres’ set forth
to be sung to the lute, orpharion, and
basse viol" of 1601. There are
21 songs by each man and it’s interesting
to compare them. To hear the Campion
contributions listen to Hyperion CDA
67268 (‘Move now with measured sound’).
I was puzzled why Campion’s
contribution is so much better known
and recorded so I set about listening
to the two composers side-by-side.
To start with Rosseter’s
rhythms are often based on those of
the dance, especially the Galliard.
His harmonies are generally simpler
than Campion, or perhaps I should say
more liable to dwell on the common chords.
The form of the songs
tends towards similarity with normally
the last two lines being repeated. This
works well if they are musically memorable
as with ‘If she forsakes me’ but in
others cases such as ‘Though far from
joy’ the effect is not quite so successful.
Composers it seems
also wrote their own words. There are
three on this disc by Rosseter which
have an instant appeal. They can be
ranked alongside any. ‘When Laura Smiles’
has a real lightness of melody. ‘If
she forsakes me’ often done by Bream
and Pears, is notable as is the beautiful
and memorable ‘What then is love but
mourning’. This is so full of that elusive
mood of smiling through tears and was
performed so memorably by Pears. Here
Rosseter in words and in music is the
equal of Campion. The other songs are
often very fine but none match up to
these in my view.
Campion is more consistent
and his poetry is finer. He is not only
one of the finest poets of the Elizabethan
period but of any period. Think of the
delicacy of ‘Never weather beaten sail’
or the clever coyness of ‘It fell on
a summer’s day’. So, we have established
Campion is a little way ahead, but that
is not to decry Rosseter. In a sense
the latter is more of his time,
less general in his subject matter,
never even vaguely spiritual and less
penetrating and profound. However he
radiates an old world charm and gentility;
everything is in place, everything is
civilized and discreet and with that
‘conceit’ so beloved of the Elizabethans:
"Kind in unkindness when will you
relent?"/And cease with faint love
true love to torment."
The CD is filled out,
quite substantially by various lute
solos. These were unpublished in the
composer’s lifetime and were copied
into various manuscripts, for example
the Jane Pickering Lute Book and the
Lute Book of Lord Herbert of Cherbury.
These are fine pieces and mostly more
profound, if I can describe them like
that, than the songs. Matthew Wadsworth,
a pupil of Nigel North, plays them sensitively
and gently and phrases the long lines
carefully. He is also an excellent accompanist
to James Gilchrist. It was no surprise
to read that he is "in great demand
as ... a continuo player and chamber
musician". He also features on
a disc entitled ‘Away Delights’ the
music of Robert Johnson. There he accompanies
The accompanying booklet
has a useful essay by Matthew Wadsworth.
All texts are given but beware: the
track numbering of the texts in the
booklet is carelessly inaccurate.
So to sum up. This
disc is pleasurable, urbane, civilized,
beautifully presented and recorded.
For anyone who loves or who is even
just interested in this repertoire then
I would advise you to snap it up without