> Sir Henry Rowley Bishop: 19 songs for Shakespeare [PLS]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Sir Henry Rowley BISHOP
Nineteen songs for Shakespeare: Lo! Here the Gentle Lark; Welcome to this Place; Should He Upbraid; Who is Sylvia I and II; That Time of Year; When that I Was and Little Tiny Boy; Come Live With Me; Hark, Hark Each Spartan Hound; Oh! Never Say; Sing Willow; It Was a Lover and His Lass; Under the Greenwood Tree; Take, oh Take Those Lips Away; Flower of the Purple Dye; Now the Hungry Lions Roar; Orpheus With His Lute; Come Thou Monarch of the Vine; Spirits Advance.
Musicians of the Globe/Philip Pickett.
Rec ADD 1998?
DECCA - THE BRITISH MUSIC COLLECTION 470 381-2 [67’09"]


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Henry Bishop (1786-1855) is largely neglected, if not derided, but he does have a number of claims to fame. He composed, or at least used in one of his operas, Home Sweet Home. He was the first to be knighted (by Queen Victoria, in 1842) for services to music. He wrote many attractive Shakespeare–inspired songs, some of which I first encountered some 50 years ago.

The coloratura showpiece Lo! Here the Gentle Lark was particularly beloved of Amelita Galli-Curci, who made a famous recording of it and others I enjoyed in my youth were Should He Upbraid and (not on this CD) Bid Me Discourse. Bishop in fact wrote music for nine Shakespeare productions at Covent Garden between 1816 and 1821, four of which are exemplified here.

Bishop, it is said, took liberties with the Mozart operas he directed in London during the early 19th Century, leaving out some numbers and replacing them with music of his own composition (a common enough practice at that time). Similar liberties were taken with Shakespeare. Who is Sylvia?, in one of the two versions here, is lifted from The Gentlemen of Verona and jerked into Twelfth Night as a quintet, using music by Thomas Ravenscroft and Morley’s It Was a Lover and His Lass (Bishop sets the latter’s words himself, most attractively).

Under the Greenwood Tree was transferred from As You Like It to A Comedy of Errors where it became a male voice quartet but retains Arne's celebrated tune. Bishop also adapted Flower of This Purple Dye (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream from J C Smith’s opera The Fairies but sixteen of the tracks are his own compositions.

To say that his music sounds like Mozart on an off day is unkind if not too far wide of the mark. To me, such an assessment is a compliment. Bishop’s Shakespearean music is always tuneful and well made and I cannot imagine this disc not giving pleasure. The performances are admirably stylish, even if Philip Pickett’s Musicians of the Globe tend to be better known for the performance of music earlier in date than circa 1820.

Susan Gritton sings Lo Here the Gentle Lark (very secure coloratura here), Should He Upbraid, Sing Willow (did Sullivan know this?), Come Live With Me and That Time of Year with beguiling clarity of line and diction. This is lucky, as the booklet prints none of the words. Gritton is the "lead" singer, though Julia Gooding sings delightfully too. Gooding is given It Was a Lover and His Lass, a winning song delivered here with delicious archness, and Oh Never Say. The Gritton/Gooding duet, Orpheus With His Lute, is a treasurable moment. I was also taken with tenor Mark Tucker in his two solos for Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Generally the ensemble and chorus pieces which include a huntsman’s chorus also for the Dream not much below Weber’s in Der Freischütz, go very well.

This may not be quite first rate music but it is excellent work of the second rank and I urge you to explore it. The recording is very good. Unusually in this British Music Collection series, this is not a compilation but a straight re-issue of a fairly recent (Philips) CD first published in 1999.

Philip L Scowcroft


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