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The Power of Love
Nicholas LANIER (1588-1666)
Love and I of late did depart [1.44]
Weep no more, my wearied eyes [4.08]
Love’s Constancy [3.51]
John WILSON (1585-1674)

Fantasie no.21 in Ab minor [1.56]
Anonymous Ask me no more [2.50]
John WILSON (1585-1674)

Stay, o stay, why dost thou fly me? [2.59]
Anonymous I long for thy virginitie [1.20]
Sweete Besse come over to me [2.40]
I kissed her while she blushed [0.39]
Hench me Malie Gray [0.42]
She’s rare and good in all – Lilt Ladie Anne Gordonn [0.40]
Buggle Bowe [1.50]
Henry LAWES (1596-1662)

Dearest, do not now delay me [1.11]
The Marigold [2.16]
The Rose [1.55]
Farewell, despairing hopes [4.40]
John WILSON (1585-1674)

Fantasie no.26 in C minor [2.36]
Venus and young Adonis [3.32]
Beauty which all men admire [1.04]
Fantasie no.1 in A minor [1.33]
Nicholas LANIER (1588-1666)
Nor com’st thou yet, my slothful love, nor yet [8.53]
John WILSON (1585-1674)

Fantasie no.30 in Eb minor [2.54]
Charles COLMAN (ca. 1605-1664)

Farewell, fond Love [4.22]
Henry LAWES (1596-1662)

Bid me but live [2.22]
John WILSON (1585-1674)

Fantasie no.10 in Eb minor [1.09]
Wherefore peep’st thou, envious day? [1.52]
Power of Love [3.21]
Fantasie no.25 in Db major [2.14]
Richard RODGERS (1902-1979) Lorenz HART (1895-1943)

My funny Valentine [2.32]
Ellen Hargis, soprano
Paul O’Dette, lute, archlute and theorbo
rec. Nichols Concert Hall, The Music Institute of Chicago, 15-18 February 2005

I was charmed by this delightful compilation of seventeenth century songs from Noyse Productions, the early music specialists. For a start, the whole disc is beautifully produced, with sleeve-notes that are both informative, and attractively designed. Secondly, the choice of music is interesting - the performers have chosen works from neglected post-Dowland composers, writing in the seventeenth century. Soprano Ellen Hargis and lutenist Paul O’Dette are well-known for their work in the early music field, and are confident exponents.

The composers featured include Lanier – once Master of the King’s Musick and a composer also known for his work in the theatre - and Henry Lawes, the older brother of the more famous William Lawes, and of whom John Milton was a huge admirer, proclaiming him as the greatest songwriter of the day. Lawes was another theatre and court man - a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal and member of the King’s "Private Musick". Wilson is another composer who features prominently – he was Professor of Music at Oxford as well as, again, working for theatre and court. Wilson is possibly the most fascinating composer on this disc, as he is well known for his employment of bizarre harmonies and unusual chromaticism.

Hargis’s voice is rather heavy and dark, and evokes the style of the period well. Paul O’Dette is charming and sensitive on his 14-course theorbo, 14-course arch lute and 8-course lute. The songs are mostly in a melancholy vein – so the inclusion of slightly jollier ones such as Wilson’s Wherefore peep’st thou, envious day is a welcome contrast. For those of us familiar with the Quilter setting, it is fascinating to hear Lawes’ more contemporary version of Go, Lovely Rose – and I certainly recommend listening to the beautiful Power of Love by Wilson. I find the hint of an American accent coming through in Farewell, despairing hopes slightly irritating, and occasionally find that Hargis’s voice is slightly too much on the heavy side, when a lighter touch might be slightly more appropriate.

Beauty which all men admire is an excellent example of Wilson’s strange chromaticism and harmonisation – he here uses unusual harmonies to illustrate the more disquieting images in the text, and the effect is weird but wonderful – slightly disconcerting, but refreshingly original and exciting.

My main criticism of this disc is that Hargis doesn't really bring out the subtle nuances of the texts – for example, in Love’s Constancy, there’s no real delight on the word "delight", yet when she reaches a word that obviously has to be contrasted, her emphasis is slightly too vehement and unsubtle (as in "burn" in the same song). Hargis creates nice dynamic changes in Nor com’st thou yet, my slothful love, nor yet - justly one of Lanier’s more famous works - but I feel that there is still not quite enough contrast or passion in this. In general, greater variety and range is needed in these songs, and a slightly brighter, lighter, livelier rendition.

A result of the similitude of the songs themselves, and of the singing, means that it is a real joy to encounter the intermittent Fantasies, as a slight relief from the songs. The Fantasies are occasionally more lively and buoyant than the songs, too, such as the dancing, lilting and delighted Buggle Bowe.

The disc concludes with an arrangement of Roger’s My Funny Valentine. One might think this slightly incongruous – something that would be suitable as a concert encore but not at the end of seventeen century lute song disc ... In actual fact, it works quite well, and makes a moving conclusion to an interesting disc.

Em Marshall



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