The early seventeenth century saw a tremendous proliferation of English “ayres”, or songs for voice and lute. This was due in main part to the success of printing and publishing, as well as to the flourishing skills of both composers and poets. This was further fuelled by a demand for accessible, attractive and playable music in the home.
This Hyperion reissue on the budget Helios label presents some of the finest ayres from the seventeenth century, authoritatively performed by Robin Blaze and Elizabeth Kenny.
The disc opens with songs by Robert Johnson for The King’s Men’s performance of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. A highly intimate rendition of Full fathom five - closely microphoned and quite breathy, gentle and tender, is followed by a juxtaposition in the form of the extrovert, bold and confident Where the bee sucks.
The Tempest features again later on in the disc’s programme with songs by John Banister, Pietro Reggio and Pelham Humphrey. Some of the Lawes ayres here are also incidental music for the theatre, while the other two songs set poems by his contemporary - and, indeed, fellow lodger - Robert Herrick. The other composers featured on the disc are Thomas Campion, John Dowland, John Danyel, Matthew Locke, Henry Purcell and John Blow, and the well-thought-out programme nicely intersperses songs with lute solos - sometimes the extraneous sounds get a little distracting in these.
Highlights of the disc include the brilliant word-painting in Danyel’s Can doleful notes, a deeply moving and expressive performance of Purcell’s 'Tis Nature's Voice; thro' all the moving Wood, and some incredibly tender and beautiful playing in the lute solo Sefauchi's Farewell.
Blaze’s voice is perfect for this repertoire - light and effortless singing, with beautiful enunciation, and his efforts are matched by Kenny’s masterful playing. A superb disc of excellent programme and performance.
Full track list
Robert JOHNSON (c l583-1633) Full fathom five [2:22]; Where the bee sucks [0:53]
ANONYMOUS The Last of the Queenes Maskes [1:14]
Thomas CAMPION (1567-1620) Fair, if you expect admiring [1:38]
John DOWLAND (1563-1626) In darkness let me dwell [4:13]; Time stands still with gazing on her face [3:47]
William LAWES (1602-1645) Why so pale and wan, fond lover? [0:59]; He that will not love [0:52] (Persuasions not to Love); I'm sick of love (To Sycamores) [2:14]
Robert JOHNSON Fantasia [4:12]
William LAWES Gather ye rosebuds while ye may (To the Virgins, to make much of Time) [1:19]
John DOWLAND Behold a wonder here [3:29]
John DANYEL (1564-1626) Rosa [5:12]; Can doleful notes? [7:09]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695) Riggadoon [0:43]
Matthew LOCKE (1621-1677) The delights of the bottle [1:09]
Pietro REGGIO (1632-1685) Arise, ye subterranean Winds [2:19]
John BANISTER (1625-1679) Come unto these yellow sands [0:57]
Pelham HUMFREY (1647-1674) Where the bee sucks [0:71]
John BANISTER Dry those eyes which are o'erflowing [1:11]; Full fathom five [3:61]
Henry PURCELL Song Tune 'Ah how pleasant 'tis to love' [0:53]; Lilliburlero [0:49]; 'Tis Nature's Voice; thro' all the moving Wood [4:15]; Be welcome then, great Sir [3:29]
John BANISTER Give me my lute [2:17]
Henry PURCELL Song Tune 'Still I'm wishing' [1:43]
John BLOW (1649-1708) Lovely Selina, innocent and free [2:34]
Henry PURCELL Sefauchi's Farewell [2:02]; By beauteous softness [2:52]