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An Elizabethan Songbook
Richard EDWARDS Where grypinge griefs [4:05]
Thomas CAMPION Come let us sound [3:02]
John DOWLAND In this trembling shadow [8:05]
John DANYEL Like us the lute delights [3:39]
John DOWLAND I saw my Ladye weepe [5:35]
Francis PILKINGTON Rest sweet Nimphs [3:45]
Thomas CAMPION When to her Lute [1:41]
Francis PILKINGTON Musick deare sollace [5:05]
Thomas MORLEY I saw my Ladye weeping [3:40]
Robert JONES If in this flesh [4:07]
Francis PILKINGTON Come all ye [4:06]
John BARTLETT Sweete birdes deprive us never [6:09]
Emma Kirby, soprano
Anthony Rooley, lute
rec. Decca Studios, West Hampstead, London, June 1978. ADD
DECCA ELOQUENCE 476 7466 [53.19]

The first thing that struck me on hearing Emma Kirkby’s An Elizabethan Songbook is how, although the voice comes across as slightly harsh - probably exacerbated by the recording – it is certainly incredibly penetrating! - she still conveys a wonderful sweetness. Her intonation is absolutely spot-on, her enunciation is perfect - it needs to be, as no words are given in the sleeve notes - and her tremendous and intimate experience, knowledge, and love of this repertoire shine through.

The songs range from the familiar, such as Francis Pilkington’s Rest Sweet Nymphs to the lesser-known. Many are in praise of God (such as Thomas Campion’s Come let us Sound), others are about the frailty of humanity (Robert Jones’ If in this flesh), or both (John Dowland’s beautiful In this trembling Shadow). Typically, some are love songs – of both a tender nature (as Campion’s When to her Lute), and more lugubrious in outlook, such as Dowland and Thomas Morley’s versions of I saw my lady weepe. The wonderful power of music is represented, too, in Richard Edwards’ opening Where grypinge griefs, and Pilkington’s Rest sweet nymphs.

The sleeve-notes are not very full but make up for their lack of volume in their interest value. They are by Kirkby herself, and give a rather different perspective to the usual composer biographies and musical discussions and dissections. Kirkby concentrates instead on the poetic aspects and the subjects of the songs rather than the music itself. She rather fascinatingly notes, for example, that Campion has set his work Come let us sound in the Greek Sapphic metre. One can hear how this matching of long and short notes and syllables lends the song a beautifully flowing and gentle air.

This a wonderful disc. I particularly enjoyed John Bartlett’s Sweete birdes deprive us never with its wonderful bird-sound word-painting. Kirkby’s clear, pure voice is well complemented by Anthony Rooley’s sympathetic lute accompaniment. The songs are all delightful, and Kirkby captures the nuances of the texts brilliantly. Highly recommended.

Em Marshall



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