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Mercurial love
John DOWLAND (1563-1626)
Come again! Sweet love doth now invite (1597) [2:34] 1,3,4; Preludium [1:21]3; Weep you no more, sad fountains (1603) [4:11] 1,3,4; If my complaints could passions move (1597) [4:00] 1,3; A Fancy [3:13] 3Sorrow, stay! (1600)  [3:02] 1,3,4; Can she excuse my wrongs? (1597)[1:17] 3,4; Away with these self-loving lads (1597) [2:01] 1,3,4
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
A New Ground in E minor, ZT682 (1689) [2:05]2; Oedipus: Music for a while, Z583/2 (1692?) [3:30] 1,2; The Indian Queen: I attempt from love’s sickness to fly in vain, Z630/17 (1695) [1:51] 1,2; New Minuet in D minor, ZT689 (1689) [0:52] 2; Cupid, the slyest rogue alive, Z367 (1685) [2:52] 1,2; Hornpipe in D minor, ZT684 (1:57) 2; What can we poor females do?, Z429 (1694) [1:47] 1,2; Hornpipe in E minor, ZT6852; Rule a wife and have a wife: There’s not a swain on the plain, Z587 (1693) [2:29] 1,2; The Tempest: Dear, pretty youth, Z631/10 (?1695) [2:01] 1,2; Ground in D minor, ZD222 (1:32)2; If music be the food of love, first setting, Z379A (1695?) [2:02] 1,2; Pausanias: Sweeter than roses, Z585/1 (1695) [3:11] 1,2
1Jama Jandrokovic (soprano); 2Jory Vinikour (harpsichord); 3Charles Weaver (lute); 4Carlene Stober (viola da gamba)
rec. American Academy of Arts & Letters, New York City, February 2007. DDD
Booklet includes sung texts
MSR CLASSICS MS1222 [47:50]
Experience Classicsonline

Dowland and Purcell make a quality combination.
 
Dowland is represented by six songs and two lute solos. First is Come again! Sweet love doth now invite. Jama Jandrokovic begins in measured fashion, savouring the words and the sensations they evoke. The refrain, “To see, to hear, to touch, to kiss, to die” starting softly, grows progressively more animated to a climax on ‘die’. Such colouring, dramatization if you like, works well. I compared Martyn Hill’s 1976 recording (L’Oiseau-Lyre 475 9114). His approach is plainer, letting the music and word-setting speak for itself and the opening of the song and its refrain are at the same tempo. Jandrokovic’s approach makes more of an immediate effect but Hill brings more cumulative benefits, especially as he sings all six stanzas whereas Jandrokovic only sings three, so you experience the full extent of the song’s emotional journey. Omitting stanzas is common practice but need not have been followed here given this Jandrokovic CD is less than 48 minutes long.
 
Weep you no more, sad fountains is delivered at a uniform, flowing tempo which enables Jandrokovic to maintain its emotive intensity, but I found her vibrato on sustained notes a little distracting. More effectively she is able to soften the refrain and tone to picture the loved one softly sleeping. If my complaints could passions move is a beautiful, anguished meditation, intent and measured, but arguably so much so that the internal drama and rhythm of the song is somewhat lost. There’s more momentum without ever forcing the music in the Martyn Hill recording which times at 3:22 in comparison with Jandrokovic’s 4:00. This points up more clearly the artistic objectivity of the text and its setting.
 
To Sorrow, stay Jandrokovic brings an opening of real yearning, wanting to maintain this melancholy condition. The monotone repetitions of ‘Pity’ are sullen. The closing refrain with softer repetitions of the descending “down I fall” has plenty of pathos, enhanced by a slightly underplayed ascending “and arise”. I compared Emma Kirkby’s 2004 recording (BIS SACD 1475). This is a little faster, timing at 2:48 in comparison with Jandrokovic’s 3:02. Kirkby’s phrasing is firmer and ornamentation more elaborate. She is more in command of the material and its sentiments. Her “Pity” repetitions are more pleading, her “down I fall” more sweeping a descent, her “arise” more demonstrative and therefore seeming more of a potential than the text states. Kirkby’s is a more virtuoso performance which clarifies the artifice of the song. Jandrokovic shows less finesse but more fire and feeling.
 
Jandrokovic approaches the light, wry tone of Away with these self-loving lads with a smiling coyness, savouring the song and enjoying its message, with some variation in delivering the refrain repeat which suitably points up its epigrammatic nature. She omits verses 3 and 4 out of the five. In Can she excuse my wrongs? the vocal line is presented by bass viol, very deftly done with delicately stylish ornamentation added in the repeated phrases and delicious interplay with the lute, a variation of texture which is refreshing in context and appropriate given that the song also exists as an instrumental piece, The Earl of Essex, his galliard. When you just hear the instruments you realize the music is lighter than the words and taunts their extravagance. But with music alone you miss the articulation of the heightened sensitivity of the lover in turmoil, so it would have been even better on this CD to have had this instrumental version followed by a vocal one.
 
The first of the lute solos, Preludium, Number 98 in the collected edition by Poulton and Lam, has in Charles Weaver’s performance here a delicately distilled melancholy. Its clean, expansive melodic line gathers increasing rhythmic elaboration and melodic variation in the articulation of which Weaver brings a real sense of freedom without ever disturbing the essential gentleness of the reflection. The second solo, A Fancy, Number 6 in Poulton and Lam, is more complex in development, as you’d expect of a fantasia, but clearly underpinned by a bass line of monotone or near monotone character. This assumes centre stage midway through the piece (tr. 5 1:45) before a growingly buoyant closing section (from 2:23) where Weaver seems to allow the sunlight in.
 
Purcell is allocated eight songs and five pieces for harpsichord. First up is A New Ground in E minor which is a keyboard version of the song on a ground bass Here the deities approve. Jory Vinikour’s account is technically accomplished with varied ornamentation in repeats, but he’s arguably over-generous in this and the intense progression of the piece lacks the breathing space that Terence Charlston’s 1994 recording provides (Naxos 8.553982). Vinikour’s timing is 2:05, Charlston’s 2:21 and this slower tempo gives more focus to the tune in gently reflective manner. To the opening of the first song, Music for a while, Jandrokovic brings a quite pearly tone and ethereal contemplation. This creates a certain remoteness which is dispelled when the snakes drop firmly from Alecto’s head, as if right in front of us. The closing refrain is also vivid, an involving fervent appreciation. In I attempt from love’s sickness to fly in vain Jandrokovic funds both a febrile quality and florid ornamentation which suits a soubrettish interpretation. However, this results in an increase in vibrato and wavering intonation, in particular at the end of the refrain on ‘pain’ (eg. tr. 11 0:16). Her calming down at the end of the final refrain is pleasing and absolutely in tune: the lady is going to live with her condition. I compared Emma Kirkby in her 1982 Purcell recital (L’Oiseau-Lyre). Her interpretation is less mannered, calmer from the start, presenting the song as a simple homily, with more economic, judicious use of ornamentation.
 
The New Minuet in D minor is displayed in a straightforward but graceful manner by Vinikour. John Gibbons’ 1995 recording (Centaur CRC 2313) is more forthright which gives more of a feel of underlying wistfulness. Cupid, the slyest rogue alive is given a vivacious performance by Jandrokovic but the humour comes across more winningly in the more laid back manner of Rogers Covey-Crump’s 1994 recording (Hyperion CDA 66730) with lighter treatment of ornamentation and softer wry tone. The Hornpipe in D minor is a keyboard transcription of the rondeau from Abdelazer, the tune Britten used for his Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. Here Vinikour is a touch more measured than Charlston and has more fun in elaborating the ornamentation in the repeats. Exaggeration suits this piece. In the coquettish What can we poor females do Jandrokovic is rather too strident for the humour. Lily Crabtree’s 1995 recording (ASV Gaudeamus CDGAU 194), more collected with only spurts of hyperactivity, shows more agreeable variety of tempo, mood and arch character.
 
Purcell’s Hornpipe in E minor, jaunty yet also presented with poise and balance by Vinikour, acts as a prelude to Jandrokovic’s enjoyably breezy treatment of the chat-up routine of There’s not a swain, which works even better at the slightly slower repeats of both strains to get in a little more ornamentation. Dear, pretty youth is more direct, increasingly daring chat-up, sung by Jandrokovic with a twinkling relish of potential pleasures, culminating in an affectionate succession of hugs. Emma Kirkby on L’Oiseau-Lyre is quieter, less bubbly, but has more of an inner twinkle. The Ground in D minor is a keyboard transcription of the song Crown the altar. Vinikour balances a firm song line and progressing ground but his fast tempo is rather relentless. Gibbons’ greater breadth, timing at 2:00 to Vinikour’s 1:32, gives the melody more shape and strength of purpose against a more tensely insistent ground.
 
Jandrokovic approaches Purcell’s first setting of If music be the food of love with fervour and excitement which well suits its floridity but as elsewhere projects rather forcefully at times bringing touches of shrillness and vibrato which for me overplay the dramatic element. But there are also more satisfying quieter moments, such as “And all my senses feasted are” (tr. 19 1:13) and repeated text is always presented with some contrast in dynamic or embellishment. To the opening of Sweeter than roses Jandrokovic brings an effectively pearly, intent contemplation. The growing tension of the melismata on “trembling” and “freeze” bursts out at “Then shot like fire” (tr. 20 1:45), rightly made more animated, to relax more blithely for the second section, “What magic has victorious love” (2:02), tripping off the extended roulades on “victorious”, before slowing a little to savour “that dear kiss” and then calmly affirming “all, all is love to me”. Here Jandrokovic isn’t caught up by the virtuosity or driven by a regularity of progression, as in If music be the food of love, but incorporates contrasts of tempo which suit text, music and her voice. To sum up, then, here’s a CD of pleasing variety and committed but not always wholly successful performances.
 
Michael Greenhalgh
 

 


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