One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


AmazonUK   AmazonUS

English Fancy
Nymphs and Shepherds [2:05]
Sonata en trio in C major for two violins and continuo [6:04]
Music for a While [4:07]
Sonata en trio no. 5 in a minor for two violins and continuo [4:48]
When I am Laid in Earth [3:23]
John JENKINS (1592-1678)
Fantaisie and Suite in D for two violins, two violas da gamba and continuo [7:14]
Fantaisie and Suite in A minor for two violins, two violas da gamba and continuo [8:03]
Fantaisie and Suite in G minor for two violins, two violas da gamba and continuo [8:36]
Thomas CAMPION (1567-1620)
Come away [1:58]
Her rosie Cheeks [2:32]
Give Beauty all her Right [3:34]
O Dear that I with Thee might live [2:03]
Sweet, exclude me not [3:17]
The Peaceful Western Wind [4:02]
Shannon Mercer, soprano
Masques (Olivier Fortin, director, harpsichord and organ; Sophie Gent and Chloe Meyers, violins; Elin Söderström  and Mélisande Corriveau, violas da gamba
Recorded July 7-9 2004 at Église Saint-Augustin di Mirabel, Canada
ANALEKTA AN 2 9905 [63:30]


Analekta continue to mine the rich and relatively untapped treasure trove that is Canadian music making. Recent years have seen quite an upsurge in the early music realm of the great white north. This disc is yet another beautifully played and attractively presented program from the youthful string ensemble that calls itself Masques. The addition of soprano Shannon Mercer is splendid icing on a very lovely and tasty cake.

The period in England that was book ended by the reigns of Henry VIII and Charles II was a golden age in English music making. The apex of the period was the long and colorful era of Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603), a time that saw tremendous royal patronage of the arts and a flourishing of exemplary musicians. Because of her long and illustrious time on the throne, the entire epoch bears her name.

Three outstanding composers are represented here in this delightful and well-conceived program. Thomas Campion was not a professional musician at all, yet such was his skill  that he composed and produced a number of masques (early staged musical productions) and wrote a vast body of songs for solo voice and sundry instruments. T.S. Eliot regarded him as one of the greatest lyric poets in English history. He is represented here by a number of his songs, elegantly and artfully delivered by soprano Shannon Mercer, whose clear and unaffected singing is a delight to the ear.

John Jenkins enjoyed an unusually long and productive life, and consequently left behind a rather sizeable body of work, mainly for consorts of viols, the predecessors to the modern string family. His music is characterized by a certain sweetness of melody and gentleness of rhythmic motion. To their immense credit, the players here manage to find the inner pulse of this music, music which is often allowed to ooze along without much rhythmic drive, thus rendering it easy on the ear, but prone to be dull. Happily, these performances hold the listener’s interest from start to finish.

Henry Purcell is widely regarded as England’s outstanding native contribution to the music of the Baroque period (Handel doesn’t count, he was born German.) Perhaps no other composer until Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) was as skilled at setting the English language to music, and although he lived but a brief life, he was able to produce a remarkable amount of music. Amongst his favorite compositional techniques was the use of the ground bass, often called by its Italian name of passacaglia in which the harmonic structure is centered on a repeating bass melody. The restrictions that this method places upon the composer could derail a lesser practitioner, but Purcell made the gesture his own and came up with some fascinating harmonic maneuvers in the process. A prime example of this technique is the aria When I am laid in Earth from his only true opera Dido and Aeneas (1689.)

Perhaps more famous for his vocal music than his instrumental, Purcell was nonetheless gifted in this area as well, and is represented here by two fine examples of his trio sonatas, beautifully played.

A special mention should be made about the skillful programming of this disc. The longer instrumental works are nicely interspersed by brief but lovely songs performed to perfection by Ms. Mercer, making for an interesting variety of timbres and moods, and capturing the interest of the listener throughout the entire concert. In an epoch whose music was characterized by standard formulae and common dance rhythms, discs of all one genre can get pretty tiresome and monotonous. By breaking up the musical styles and with the insertion of vocal works, Masques have given us a program that is refreshingly varied.

Analekta were a bit skimpy on the program notes, keeping them more general on a disc of music this specialized than might be desired by connoisseur listeners. Otherwise, production values are fine, and I expect that male buyers will be a bit envious of the fact that M. Fortin gets to spend his days surrounded by so attractive and talented a group of ladies!

A real winner on all fronts. Highly recommended.

Kevin Sutton


Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.