The William Cavendish of the title was Duke of Newcastle – an
artistic patron, Royalist Commander in the Civil War, and an exile
follower the defeat of the King’s cause. He was born in 1593 and
in 1648, eight years before his death, he took rooms in the house
belonging to the painter Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp. There he
rose to a position of eminence in the arts as a knowledgeable
and appreciative patron in the Low Countries. All branches benefited
from his patronage – music, of course, but also painting and the
sciences and literature.
He was referred
to in Clarendon’s The History of the Rebellion and the Civil
Wars in England as “amorous in poetry and music, to which
he indulged the greatest part of his time” – hence the title
of this disc, though Parliament took a different view, calling
him “one of Apollo’s Whirligigs.”
personal acquaintance with the composers or through knowledge
of their work or patronage, whereby he encouraged publication,
Cavendish was an important figure. For example he’d met William
Lawes in 1633. Matthew Locke set one of Cavendish’s own songs,
Oh the brave jolly gypsy from The Triumphant Widow,
a reworking of his comic interlude A Pleasant and Merry Humour.
Henry Lawes was attached to the house of Cavendish’s son
in law John Viscount Brackley. And Cavendish later often attended
musical parties at the Antwerp home of Gaspar Duarte (1584-1653)
a rich merchant whose daughter Leonora is represented here by
So, talented, influential
but ultimately the backer of the losing side for the time at
least, Cavendish’s life in the Low Countries was one of considerable
interest. It’s this nexus between patron and the composers he
admired and heard, which forms the focus of the disc performed
in their usually adroit fashion by Concordia under Mark Levy.
textures can be appreciated in the anonymous Daphne,
weaving and building in timbral complexity. They take a dramatic
and incisive view of Dowland’s Pavan and deal excitingly
with Nicholaes a Kempis’s Symphonia. Here viol runs are florid
and galvanising. John Jenkins’s two instrumental pieces celebrate
the raising of the siege of Newark – Cavendish had been commander
in chief of the northern forces and had himself placed a garrison
there. The fact that four months later the royalists were crushed
at Marston Moor doesn’t lessen the intermittent gravity and
freshness of these two elegantly woven pieces.
Suite is one of the highest of the high peaks here, a work of
dazzling beauty and compression, excellently realised. Peter
Phillips’s two pieces offer a constructive contrast – the slow
gravity of the Pavan and the cosy elegance of the Galliard.
Concordia are joined by soprano Angharad Gruffydd Jones for
several songs. Her voice has less of the beacon clarity of certain
early music practitioners and more of a healthy warmth to it.
It makes her approach to Sabbatini’s work of some interest.
This sounds like Monteverdi and its melismas are strongly brought
off, even at the expense of a slightly hooty quality to her
voice. I was less taken by the approach of both her and the
instrumental group to one of the masterpieces of English song,
Lanier’s No more shall meads. Slow though they are when
Paul Agnew and Christopher Wilson play this on Metronome METCD1027
one feels the expression intensely. Here Concordia and Jones
are much, much quicker and whilst she’s more vowel-interventionist,
if I can put it that way, the sum total sounds to me less than
the more placidly beautiful Agnew and Wilson.
Still, one wouldn’t
want to end carping. The recorded sound is excellent and I’m
strongly indebted to Lynn Hulse’s notes for biographical matters.
There’s plenty of variety here and quite some historical frisson