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A Musicall Banquet
Andreas Scholl with Edin Karamazov, Markus Märkl & Christopher Coin
DECCA 466 917-2 [67.29]

My heavy sprite (Holborne). Lady if you so spite me (Dowland). In darkness let me dwell (Dowland). O dear life when shall it be (Anon). Ce penser qui sans fin tirannise ma vie (Guerdron). Si le parler et le silence (Guedron). Change thy mind since she doth change (Martin). Go my flock go get you hence (Anon). Se di farmi morire? (Megli). Amarilli mia bella (Caccini). Passava Amor su arco desarmado (Anon). Far from the triumphing court (Dowland). Sir Robert Sydney His Galliard (Dowland). In a grove most rich of shade (Tessier). Vous que le Bonheur rappelle (Guedron). Vuestros ojos tienen d'Amour (Anon). Sta motte mi sognava (Anon). To plead my faith (Batchelar). O Eyes leave off your weeping (Hales). Dovro dunque morire? (Caccini). O bella piu (Anon).  

Andreas Scholl has been touring this interesting programme internationally in recital with the same eminent accompanists. His counter-tenor voice combines a beautiful tone quality, and evenness, with musical intelligence and scrupulous attention to detail. He is acknowledged as one of the finest exponents of a now well accepted voice type; the most dramatic change in matters of vocal performance during the last half of the momentous century which is now receding into history.

Robert Dowland (1591-1641), a minor composer of the time, made this collection which bears his name in 1610. His father John (1563-1626) is the most famous of those included; there is a suggestion that father helped his 19 yr. old son with its compilation, the attribution perhaps to help launch the young man's musical career. The net is cast widely, with French and Italian composers as well as English, the first lute song collection to do so, and offers a cross section of European solo song around 1600.

Scholl is an immaculate singer, but can sound a little over-respectful, studied and cautious in the more familiar English repertoire. I thought he livened up in some of the foreign songs, which are given with elegantly turned embellishments. The accompaniments provide variety, with Markus Märkl on harpsichord, Christopher Coin, bass viol, and Edin Karamazov on a collection of lutes of different sizes, plus guitar and orpharion - 'a wire-strung plucked instrument of the bandora family'of which only two survive ' (New Grove); the copy used was 'kindly loaned by Anthony Rooley', who was responsible for a rival recording of A Musicall Banquet ).

Caccini's famous Amarilli is exquisite, with fire in the middle section and the entry of guitar in the following anonymous Passava Amor raised the temperature a few degress further, before it is quenched by doleful Dowland Far from triumphing court, the bass viol providing a suitably dark bass. The provenance of Scholl's elaborations is not made clear, but his Amarilli doesn't quite match the virtuosity, 'Orphic energy and delight in living dangerously' of Emma Kirkby in Musica Oscura's Arie Antiche (MO 070988).

This collection will assuredly give great pleasure and bids fair to reap critical reward. The texts are given complete in four languages, printed on thin paper in parallel, far the best way. This gives space for the marketing department to provide us with a four-page glossy cover spread, with three photos of the singer in trendy garb, sitting at a long table with three lutes (all the same modern one, actually, I think) and a tasteful scattering of photo-copied sheets of music! (Nowhere in sight his colleagues, who are relegated to small print in the old fashioned way to emphasise the soloist's stardom.) Far more useful to have given a few more facts about the Collection, with maybe a facsimile page or two and an illustration of the orpharion?

Peter Grahame Woolf

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