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250 Years of English Song – An Anthology of English Song: 1530-1709
full track-list at end of review
Norma Burrowes (soprano); Wendy Eathorne (soprano); Charles Brett (counter-tenor); Neil Jenkins (tenor); Philip Langridge (tenor); Benjamin Luxon (baritone); Robert Lloyd (bass-baritone); Anthony Rooley (lute); Harold Lester (harpsichord); Colin Tilney (harpsichord); Catherine Mackintosh (violin); Polly Waterfield (violin); Ian Gammie (violin); Trevor Jones (violin); Jane Ryan (bass viol); Adam Skeaping (viola da gamba); Medici String Quartet
rec. October–November 1976, St John’s Smith Square; St George the Martyr, Queen’s Square; Decca Studio 4, Tollington Park, London. ADD
LYRITA SRCD.2309 [74:39 + 78:39]

Experience Classicsonline



This is unlikely and unusual territory for Lyrita, but it brings to public hearing for the first time previously unreleased tapes made for a British Council project in 1976. The scope was English Song from the medieval period to the twentieth century. Although the project was not completed Wyastone is now releasing those recordings that survive. This first two CD set takes us from 1530-1709, that’s to say from Richard Edwards (b.1522) to Stephen Storace (b.1762). More recordings were promised, eagerly awaited but never transpired.

The recordings were made at around the same time as Anthony Rooley was setting down his immensely important recordings; one thinks of his Consort of Musicke recordings of Dowland for example, still highly valued today. In fact the viol consort that supports a number of the songs on this new release - Catherine Mackintosh (violin), Polly Waterfield (violin), Ian Gammie (violin) and Trevor Jones (violin) - is the same that motored those famous recordings of the period and all are hallowed names. Rooley, the guiding spirit, is on hand. Other famous names – Jane Ryan and Adam Skeaping along with the Medici Quartet – will also be familiar to spotters of instrumental practitioners. And that is not even to begin on the list of vocalists. Of them Charles Brett - who didn’t sing in the Consort - is probably the most obvious fit in this kind of repertoire and though the roll-call of Burrowes, Jenkins, Langridge, Luxon and Lloyd may seem somewhat unusual that is a prescriptive view encouraged by subsequent specialisms. One of the least well known of the singers is one of the most heavily recorded here – Wendy Eathorne. She propagated new music and did a fair bit of recording at the time – Vaughan Williams, Delius and Bridge were well within her compass; she sings in A Village Romeo and Juliet for instance and in Bridge’s The Christmas Rose, as well as VW’s Sir John in Love and The Pilgrim’s Progress. And quite a bit of Bach too. It’s a real pleasure to hear her apt and responsive singing in this collection.

Neil Jenkins is mellifluous as ever, not least in Danyel. Langridge is similarly warm, giving us a lightly burnished My Goddess Celia (known as merely ‘lovely’ in the days of Heddle Nash et al) and a felicitously rude The Maid’s twitcher. He also has the good fortune to take on that highly witty pastiche-burlesque, Henry Carey’s A New Year’s Ode. I think by common consent the approach to Arne’s O Ravishing Delight is – by all – a bit too romanticised for modern tastes but then it is a lovely song. But he is at the apex for that most splendid of composers, James Hook, and one of the loveliest things here – Noon; English tenors, get singing this song. It’s Langridge in fact who ends the set with the gentle nautical song, Storace’s The Lullaby; what a loss Storace’s early death was to British music. Brett proves assured in breath control in the taxing Byrd Fair Britain Isle. In the Francis Cutting arrangement of How should I your true love know we still feel the strong impress of Deller on this fine countertenor. He is rightly intense in the Dowland Go nighly cares where he’s joined by the viol consort. Of Eathorne’s contributions I think the Gibbons’ song Ah dear heart outstanding in its eloquence and perception. Elsewhere her acute and stylistically aware singing brings rich rewards. Luxon unveils some boldly delineated divisions in Purcell’s This Poet Sings and negotiates the dramatic sectional outbursts of Let the dreadful engines with alternating legato. Robert Lloyd proves avuncular in Eccles and gives us a good account of the very sexy Thomas Stokes’s song The Stocking Cantata. He digs into the ‘Ruddier than the Cherry’ ethos of Boyce’s Rail No More with great vigour and clarity.

Fine notes and full texts are provided. There are a few tape blips which are inherent and proved ineradicable. They only affect the briefest beginnings of some songs – and they are over as soon as you notice them. Otherwise these discs offer a revealing conspectus of the times in strong-grained performances.


Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Rob Barnett



Full tracklist

CD 1

Richard EDWARDS (1522-1566) When griping griefs
John DANYEL (1565-1626) Why Canst Thou Not; Keep Grief Within
ANON. When Daphne from fair Phoebus did fly
William BYRD (1540-1623)Fair Britain Isle; Out of the Orient Cristal Skies
ANON. I smile to see how you devise
Richard FARRANT (d. 1581)Ah, alas, you salt-sea gods
ANON. (arr Francis Cutting) How should I your true love know
John DOWLAND (1563-1626) If that a sinner’s sighs; Come away, sweet love; Go nightly cares
Francis PILKINGTON (d. 1638) Now peep, bo-peep
Orlando GIBBONS (1583-1625) Ah dear heart
Thomas CAMPIAN (1567-1620) Fire, fire; Out of my soul’s depths
John WILSON (1595-1674) In the merry month of May
Henry LAWES (1596-1662) ’Tis but a frowne; Wert thou yet fairer
John HILTON (1599-1657) A Hymn to God the father
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695) A thousand several ways; O solitude; In chloris
CD 2
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695) This poet sings; With sick and famished eyes; Let the dreadful engines
John ECCLES (1668-1735) Belinda's pretty pleasing form; The jolly breeze
George MONRO (d. 1731) My Goddess Celia
Richard LEVERIDGE (?1670-1758) The Sailor’s farewell
ANON. The Maid’s twitcher
Henry CAREY (?1687-1743) Flocks are sporting; A New Year’s Ode
Thomas STOKES The Stocking Cantata
Thomas ARNE (1714-1766) O Ravishing Delight
Thomas CHILCOT (1707-1766) On a day
Samuel HOWARD (?1710-1782) Why heaves my fond bosom
William BOYCE (1711-1779) Rural beauty; Rail no more ye learned asses
Henry BURGESS (c. 1738-1765) The Rose
Michael ARNE (1741-1786) The lass with the delicate air
Charles DIBDIN (1745-1814) The lass that loved a sailor
James HOOK (1746-1827) Noon
Stephen STORACE (1762-1796) The Lullaby






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