Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

CD 1 [51.17]
1. Anonymous Passamezzo Pavan (Tisdale's Virginal Book-TVB)
2. Anonymous-Passamezzo Galliard (TVB)
3. William Randall-Johnson's Medley (TVB)
4. Dowland-Lachrymae (TVB)
5. Dowland-Galliard: Can she excuse? (TVB)
6. William Byrd-La Volta (Fitzwilliam Virginal BookFWVB)
7. John Bull-In nomine XII (Musica Britannica-MB 31)
8. Anonymous-Chi passa (Dublin Virginal Book-DVB)
9. Peter Philips-Amarilli di Julio Romano (FWVB)
10. William Byrd-The Third Pavane (My Lady Nevell's Book-Nevell)
11. The Third Galliard (Nevell)
12. Tregian's Pavane (MB 60a)
13. Tregian's Galliard (MB 60b)
14. Anonymous-Variations on the Romanesca (DVB)
15. My Lady Carey's Dompe (Royal. App. 58)
16. Galliard (Nevell, MB 3b)

CD 2 [41.31]
1. Orlando Gibbons-Pavan in g (MB 16)
2. John Bull-Dr. Bull's My Selfe (FWVB)
3. Orlando Gibbons-Pavan in a (MB 17)
4. John Bull-Vaulting Galliard (MB 90)
5. William Byrd-Pavan in d (MB 52a)
6. William Byrd-Galliard in d (MB 52b)
7. Orlando Gibbons-The Italian Ground (MB 27)
8. John Munday-Robin (FWVB)(MB 27)
9. Anonymous-Pavana (Mall sims, FWVB XVI)
10. William Byrd-Lord Willobies Welcome Home (Nevell, MB 7)
11. William Tisdale-Mrs. Katherin Tregian's Paven (FWVB)
12. William Byrd-The Tenth Pavian: Mr. W. Peter (Nevell, MB 3a)
CD 3 [23.55]
Beyond the Notes - The Virginalists: An English Phenomenon, Howard Schott ,
Peter Watchorn, harpsichord
Rec: June 15, 1996 Southern Vermont College, Bennington, VT.
MUSICA OMNIA MO 0112 [92.48 + 27.39]

The 16th century in England was one of the most vibrant periods for keyboard music in all of Europe. Partly because of the interest held by the royalty in music - even Queen Elizabeth played the virginal - this period saw a huge number of unique compositions by gifted composers. These far outshone the production of such music in other European countries. In France, keyboard music did not come into its own until the early 17th century, and in Germany the 18th century was the period when the keyboard reached its apotheosis.

This set includes an overview of English music from this period, featuring anonymous works and the music of many well-known composers, such as William Byrd, perhaps the greatest keyboard composer of the time, but also John Bull, Peter Philips, Orlando Gibbons and others.

The first disc is played on a single-manual copy of a Ruckers harpsichord. The instrument has a fine, subtle sound, and the recording is excellent. The works on this disc include lively pieces by Byrd, such as La Volta, a well-known work from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, a manuscript containing hundreds of works by English composers. There are also two of Byrd's pavan/galliard pairs. According to the practice that developed in the Elizabethan period, dances were presented in pairs: the pavan being a slow, ceremonious piece, and the galliard being more lively. There is a thematic relation between the two; in some ways, the latter can be seen as a variation of the former. Byrd wrote many such pairs, and two of them are included on this disc. William Randall's arrangement of John Dowland's well-known Lachrimae attests to the wide popularity of this song, which is also known in a vocal version, Flow my tears, and Dowland's versions for viol consort. This was one of the first "hits" in Europe, and was copied and adapted by composers in many countries. This arrangement features a great deal of ornamentation, and is both melancholic and intricate.

The second disc opens with a huge, gentle arpeggio of Orlando Gibbons' Pavan in g, setting the tone for this disc, played on a double-manual Ruckers copy. The sound is lush and rich, almost overwhelming, and this slow, delicate piece is a fine example of Gibbons' music. John Bull's masterful Vaulting Galliard, a short piece, at less than 2 minutes, is a delightfully lively piece, as is Gibbons' The Italian Ground, which is a series of variations on a simple theme, each variation adding complexity and ornamentation. The disc closes with another pair of works by Byrd, The Tenth Pavian: Mr. W. Peter and Galliard, which is another fine example of the composer's genius.

Musica Omnia has come up with an original idea. Each of its recordings contains an additional CD, called Beyond the Notes. This is basically a presentation of the music with spoken text and musical examples. In a way, it can be seen as liner notes with music. While one would not want to listen to this CD many times, it is invaluable in giving the listener a more complete approach to the music. Whether listened to before or after hearing the music, it opens the ears to new insights, in a way that printed liner notes cannot. Musica Omnia deserves kudos for this idea, and it would be wonderful if other labels picked up on it. Here, Howard Schott presents the Virginalists, and discusses the musical tradition and repertoire of this time.

This fine recording, like many others available, gives an overview of the music of this fertile period. But, while other discs exist with similar selections, this one stands above them for the quality of the performance, the excellent instruments and recording, and the "extra" CD giving a presentation of the music and the composers. Those interested in this period will not be disappointed, and those unfamiliar with it will find this a perfect introduction.

Kirk McElhearn


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