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CD: Buywell

Forlorn Hope Fancy
John DOWLAND (1562-1626)
Lady Hunsdon’s Puffe [1:35]
John JOHNSON (fl.1579-1594)
Passamezzo Pavan [2:53]
Thomas ROBINSON (fl.1589-1609)
A Gigue [2:12]
A Fancy [2:57]
Carman’s Whistle [2:18]
Alfonso FERRABOSCO I (1543-1588)
Pavin 6 [3:35]
Go from my Window [2:18]
Robert JOHNSON (c.1582-1633)
Alman [1:11]
Michelangelo GALILEI (1575-1631)
Toccata [2:05] Volta I [1:22] Volta II [1:38] Volta III [1:34]
Fortune [2:32]
Girolamo KAPSPERGER (c.1580-1651)
Galliarda [1:22]
Fantasia [4:36]
Vincenzo CAPIROLA (1474-post 1548)
Balletto [1:26]
Francesco da MILANO (1497-1543)
Ricercar [1:59]
Joan Ambrosio DALZA (fl.1508)
Pavana alla venetiana [1:16]
Saltarello [1:27]
Piva [1:08]
ANONYMOUS (arr. William Byrd)
Will Ye Walk the Wood So Wild? [5:53]
Galliard [1:44]
The Right Honourable Ferdinando Earle of Derby, his Galliard [2:11] Forlorn Hope Fancy [3:58]
Alessandro PICCININI (1566-c.1638)
Chiaccona Mariona alla vera Spagnola [5:10]
Rosemary Hodgson (lute)
rec. 15-16 August and 15-16 September, 2007, Iwaki Auditorium, Southbank Centre, Melbourne
ABC CLASSICS 4763175 [62:43]
Experience Classicsonline

A first reaction on seeing the programme of Rosemary Hodgson’s recital disc was to think how very miscellaneous it was - mixing English and Italian music, having no very apparent chronological, geographical or other kind of unity. Reading the lutenist’s own booklet notes one realises that she is well aware of this miscellaneous quality and that it is, indeed, intrinsic to the whole undertaking.

Hodgson uses an analogy with the surviving manuscript lute books of the period - personal collections in which amateurs (in every sense) of the lute would copy out pieces which held a special value for them, perhaps pieces that had particular associations or related to their own travels and studies, or perhaps, quite simply, pieces they thought were of especial beauty. Some such lute books might include music by the compiler’s friends and associates, or by the compiler himself; but they might just as readily include compositions whose sources lay some distance away in time and place. Like the contemporary miscellanies of verse, such manuscript collections are not only of great value as a source for later students and performers; they can also, at their best, be resonant (if implicit) statements about the sensibility of the person who assembled them - often over a period of years - an insight into the particular tastes of an individual some centuries ago.

Rosemary Hodgson says of this programme that it “is an aural equivalent of a renaissance lute book” and tells us that she has chosen pieces which “have a particular resonance “ for her as a musician - and therefore as a human being, one might add. “I adore all of them; they are like a collection of jewels that I have carried with me and shared with audiences”.

As “compiler” as well as performer, we are certainly given an insight into Rosemary Hodgson’s sensibility when we listen to this thoroughly enjoyable CD. It is a sensibility which responds with particular potency to the ‘private’ and delicate dimensions of the lute and its repertoire, which is especially responsive to the subtle poetry of the repertoire. It is, conversely, a musical sensibility less perfectly attuned to the more robust, more ‘popular’, dimension of the Renaissance canon of lute music.

As such, Hodgson’s playing is at its most utterly convincing - and its loveliest - in pieces such as Johnson’s Passamezzo Pavan, with its elegiac descending runs and its counterbalancing hints of renewal in its ascending phrases. Here Hodgson finds and articulates emotional and musical patterns with an exquisite clarity. Her performance of Byrd’s arrangement of Will Ye Walk the Woods So Wild? is taken more slowly than usual and brings out a gentle melancholy that is often missed. In Dowland’s Forlorn Hope Fancy - which gives her collection its title - Hodgson handles the complex counterpoint with unfussy assurance and, characteristically, her playing evokes to something like perfection the oxymoronic qualities of the piece’s title ‘forlorn hope’, exuding a real sense of, on the one hand, human grief and the sense of hopelessness and, on the other, the resilient clinging on to the possibility of restoration and rebirth. It is a very characteristic Elizabethan nexus of feeling and attitude, captured to perfection by Dowland in this piece and very perceptively performed by an obviously accomplished lutenist.

Perhaps, to offer some slight reservations, Rosemary Hodgson is a little less convincing when it comes to pieces such as Johnson’s Carman’s Whistle - attributed here to father John rather than son Robert - where her playing is so refined that the theme’s origins in the streets and the stables is more or les forgotten - a little more vulgarity wouldn’t have gone amiss here!

On the whole, however, this is playing of real subtlety and of real sensitivity; Hodgson eschews the merely showy and her virtues grow on one increasingly with repeated listenings.

Glyn Pursglove 


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