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Thomas LINLEY (1756-1778)
Music for The Tempest (1777) [23:19]
Overture to The Duenna (1775) [5:33]
In yonder grove (1773) [12:44]
Ye nymphs of Albion’s beauty-blooming isle [12:03]
Daughter of Heav’n, fair thou art (Darthula) [17:00]
Julia Gooding (soprano)
Paul Goodwin (oboe)
The Parley of Instruments Baroque Orchestra and Choir/Peter Holman
directed from the harpsichord by Paul Nicholson
rec. unspecified location, August 1994
HELIOS CDH55256 [72:38]
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You’ll recognise this Helios incarnation from its original appearance on Hyperion CDA66767 issued back in the mid 1990s. Linley had always aroused considerable enthusiasm amongst those who believed him to be a Missing Link in eighteenth century English music. Hyperion’s dedicated championship demonstrated that his cruelly early death was indeed a damaging one to the musical fabric of his country. Here was a composer with dramatic flair, technical eloquence, and sound judgement who wrote music of taxing demands and lyrical rewards. He was also, occasionally, inspired.

We meet the inspiration immediately in the opening of his 1777 Music for The Tempest. In his notes Peter Holman conjectures whether or not Haydn heard Linley’s Arise! ye spirits of the storm and whether it inspired Haydn’s 1792 London concert performance of The Storm. There’s certainly something highly progressive about the writing. It’s not merely its theatrically powerful sense of anticipation, the inexorable crescendo and the sheer effect of it; it’s written for commensurately big forces, handled with absolute command, and it does raise questions as to how Linley’s stage craft could only have deepened and ripened had he not died at twenty-two. Mozart, who had met Linley, suggested as much to the singer Michael Kelly, in 1784.

Fortunately Holman and his forces are expertly drilled and do this opening splendidly, the rest no less so. There are real demands for the soprano and some very steep ones for the principal oboe. Paul Goodwin naturally is an expert instrumentalist and he and Julia Gooding make an excellent pairing. This must have been one of her first recordings and the brightness of her projection is quite apparent. Her voice now is better supported than it was a decade ago and it is the case that she is sometimes stretched high in the tessitura by Linley’s very considerable demands – there’s a pinched quality to the highest notes. Incidentally Linley arranged Arne’s Where the Bee Sucks from a glee by William Jackson, which Linley sets wittily for chorus.

The other works maybe lack the visceral power of the Tempest music but are no less enjoyable. The overture to The Duenna is replete with gallant sensibility, notable for the winds’ role in the stately adagio. In Yonder Grove dates from 1773 when Linley was seventeen. The main inspiration seems to be a modified Handelian one – the Air If Thy Too-Cruel Bow Be Bent has a distinctly Handelian tread and is decidedly attractive. The final Air is also fine though it is somewhat over-long for its material.

Ye nymphs of Albion’s beauty-blooming isle is a bit of a mouthful to say – some of the texts he set were wordy in the extreme - but this cantata, concise and melodic, is notable for the horn writing in the slow air Wrapt close from harm, an early English use of the instrument as elysian-pastoral rather than a martial-hunting horn. Handelian influence and considerable demands also inform the last cantata, Daughter of Heav’n, fair thou art. The standout is the central aria My arm shall lift the spear which is noble and manly in a Handelian way though once again it makes very assiduous demands of the soprano high up and the divisions are not at all easy.

The Parley of Instruments’s choral forces are crisp and well focused and the band enviably lithe. With performances as attractive and committed as these Linley certainly deserves this reissue at a temptingly lower price bracket than hitherto. There are full texts.

Jonathan Woolf



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