The Complete Vanguard Deller Recordings - Volume 4
Music of Handel, Bach and the English Renaissance
Honor Sheppard, Eileen McLoughlin (soprano); Alfred Deller, Mark Deller (counter-tenors); Max Worthley, Gerald English, Wilfred Brown (tenor); Maurice Bevan (baritone); Maurice Bevan, John Frost (bass); Michel Piguet (oboe); Richard Rudolph (trumpet); Eduard Melkus, Marie Leonhardt (baroque violin); Kurt Theiner, Alice Hoffelner (baroque viola); Nikolaus Harnoncourt (baroque cello); Alfred Planiawsky (baroque double-bass); Eduard Melkus, Alice Hoffelner (treble viol); Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Gustav Leonhardt (bass viol); Desmond Dupré (lute); Gustav Leonhardt (organ); Harold Lester, Gustav Leonhardt (harpsichord); Oriana Concert Choir and Orchestra; Leonhardt Baroque Ensemble; Consort of Viols of the Leonhardt Baroque Ensemble; Wenzinger Consort of Viols of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis; Alfred Deller, Gustav Leonhardt, August Wenzinger (directors)
Includes the music from the original LPs: Byrd and His Time; Elizabethan and Renaissance Music; The Connoisseur's Handel; Deller's Choice
Track-listing and series overview at end of review
VANGUARD CLASSICS MC 195 [6 CDs: 62:00 + 61:00 + 67:00 + 71:00 + 78:00 + 53:00]

I should begin by reiterating a point I made in a review for another CD set featuring Alfred Deller and his Consort. The level of scholarship surrounding the music of Bach and Handel - and of other composers of this period - has made considerable advances since the 1950s: a plethora of ‘early-music’ ensembles has sprung up, and performances of various degrees of quality, with scholarly understanding applied at a range of points on the gamut from the objectively rigorous to the subjectively selective, has been the result. It would be grossly unfair, therefore, to assess a recording of the 1950s in the light of the musicological advances made since that time, as to do so would be to consider it using a false basis of comparison. The only fair basis for the consideration of such a recording must be its musicality and the extent to which its interpretations serve the composers’ intentions in terms of their emotional impact upon a listener.

Bearing the above points entirely in mind, it grieves me that this set fails convincingly to advocate the music it presents. Leaving aside the carelessness on the part of Vanguard in allowing the set to be issued with the first disc mislabelled (no fault of the artists), many of the performances suffer from a self-conscious worthiness that precludes the sense of life or drama. It is a glaring truism to state that that this was contemporary music at the time of its composition; but one that, nevertheless, bears statement in this context, as these works were, first and foremost, a means of emotional expression, designed to communicate with a listener, whether in a religious or a secular environment. The solemnity and the sense of divinely endowed responsibility that should be inextricably linked to the first part of Handel’s best-known Coronation Anthem, Zadok the Priest (CD 1); the ebullient rejoicing that follows the anointing of Solomon; and the heartfelt acclamation that ensues: these are lacking; in their stead, weak ensemble and a limp sound from the chorus are larded with heavy, earthbound bow-strokes and too-shapeless phrases – there is no sense of lingering, anticipatory excitement as Zadok and Nathan approach the royal throne.

Alexander’s Feast (CD 3 and CD 4) suffers from similar problems. Max Worthley, the tenor soloist, has an exaggerated enunciation that irritates; also, there is no shape afforded to the bass-line, which is, as a result, lacking in direction. The sense of drama, too, is deficient: “Bacchus, ever fair”, for example, is hardly suitably triumphant and heraldic, especially given the text of the preceding recitative.

Certain items of the set, however, are more successful: the voice and lute songs of CD 4 have much more variety of tone-colour, with Deller’s beautiful voice being appropriately modulated with much sympathy shown to the meaning of the text; the organ voluntaries by Matthew Locke of CD 6, too, are executed by Gustav Leonhardt with sensitivity and with appropriate, though never intrusive decoration. The Wenziger Consort of Viols, featured on CD 5, also distinguishes itself with some rhythmically-incisive playing, accurate ensemble, and impressive depth of sound.

Overall, however, this is not an especially good advocate for the music of Bach, Handel and their contemporaries. I can only commend the commitment and devotion of Deller and his colleagues to this music: it is unfortunate that this sense of commitment is not adequately enough conveyed by the manner of its execution throughout the set.

Em Marshall-Luck

Overall, this is not an especially good advocate for the music of Bach, Handel and their contemporaries.


CD 1
George Frideric HANDEL
Jephtha – ‘Tis Heaven’s all-ruling pow’r; O spare your daughter; Laud her all ye virgin train
Serse – Ombra mai fù

Orlando – Ah! Stigie larve
L’Allegro, il Pensoroso ed il Moderato – Let me wander
Orlando – Cielo se tu il consenti
Rinaldo – Lascia ch’io pianga
Theodora – Kind Heav’n, if Virtue be thy care; Wide spread his name; Sweet Rose, and Lilly, flow’r Form; To thee thou glorious son of worth
Coronation Anthems – Zadok the Priest; The King shall rejoice; Let thy hand be strengthened

CD 2
George Frideric HANDEL
Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne
Johann Sebastian BACH Cantata no.170: Vergnügte Ruh’ beliebte Seelenlust

CD 3
George Frideric HANDEL
Alexander’s Feast

CD 4
George Frideric HANDEL
Alexander’s Feast
Book of Airs (1597) – Can she excuse my wrongs?
A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke – Air for three viols
A Book of Ayres (1606) – Of all the birds that I do know
Fitzwilliam Virginal Book – Alman for Harpsichord
Book of Airs (1597) – If my complaints could passions move
Pavan for four viols
Rosseter’s Book of Ayres (1601) – I care not for these ladies
Air for lute solo: My Lady Hunsdon’s Puffe
Air: Pandolpho
Fantasia in C for four viols
A Pilgrim’s Solace – Air: From silent night
Fitzwilliam Virginal Book – Variations for Harpsichord on ‘Up Tails All’

CD 5
The Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet
ANON (arr. Edmund FELLOWES)
My sweet little darling
ANON (arr. Peter WARLOCK)
William CORKINE (arr. Thurston DART)
What Bootheth Love?
ANON (arr. Peter WARLOCK)
Ah, Silly Poor Joas
Thomas WHYTHORNE (arr. Peter WARLOCK)
Buy New Broom
William BYRD (arr. Edmund FELLOWES)
Elegy on the Death of Thomas Tallis (1585) – Ye Sacred Muses
Psalms, Sonnets and Songs of Sadness and Piety, made into Five Parts (1588) – Lullaby, my sweet little baby
Richard NICHOLSON (arr. Peter WARLOCK)
In a Merry May Morn
Robert PARSONS (arr. Peter WARLOCK)
William BYRD (arr. Peter LE HURAY and Thurston DART)
Come, Pretty Babe
ANON (arr. Peter WARLOCK)
O Death, Rock me Asleep

CD 6
The Self-Banished
The Nightingale
Johann Sebastian BACH
Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach – Bist du bei mir, BWV508
Matthew LOCKE
Melothsia, 1673 – Voluntary in G
Elegy on the death of Queen Mary, 1695 – The Queen’s Epicedium
Matthew LOCKE
Melothsia, 1673 – Voluntary in F
Harmonia Sacra, Book I, 1688 – A Hymn to God the Father
The First Book of Canzonets to Two Voices, 1595 – Sweet Nymph, Come to thy Lover
Love’s Goddess
Birthday Song for Queen Mary, 1692 – Sweetness of Nature
Robert JONES
A Musicall Dreame or 4th Book of Airs – Sweet Kate
Canzonets for Two Voices – Miraculous love’s wounding
I go before, my darling
Amphion Anglicus (London, 1600) – If my Celia could persuade
Ah Heav’n! What is it I hear?
Cantica Sacra (London, 1662) – O bone Jesu
Gaudent in coelis
Fayrfax Manuscript – Ah, My Dear Son

The Deller Vanguard series – An Overview

Volume 1 - Folk Songs and Ballads - 7 CDs + CD-ROM. Includes Tavern songs, Cries of London, English Lute Songs, Folk Songs arr. Vaughan Williams - (Vanguard Classics MC 193)

Volume 2 - Music of Purcell - 6 CDs + CD-ROM - Dido and Aeneas, Saint Cecilia's Day Music, Dioclesian, Come Ye Sons of Art - (Vanguard Classics MC 194)

Volume 3 - Christmas Carols and Motets - 4 CDs + CD-ROM - Motets and Carols from Medieval Europe, Traditional Carols - (Vanguard Classics MC 192)

Volume 4 - Music of Handel, Bach and the Renaissance - 6 CDs + CD-ROM - Alexander's Feast, Coronation Anthems, Bach Cantatas 54 / 170, Elizabethan Music, Tallis Lamentations, William Byrd and his Age (Vanguard Classics MC 195)

Volume 5 - English, French and Italian Madrigals - 6 CDs + CD-ROM - Morley, Wilbye, Weelkes, Gibbons, Guillaume, Jannequin, Di Lasso, Monteverdi (Vanguard Classics MC 196)

Volume 6 - French and Italian Discoveries - 6 CDs + CD-ROM - Sacred and Secular Works By Machaut, Couperin, Lalande, Monteverdi, Scarletti, Schutz. This includes duets with Mark Deller not previously issued (Vanguard Classics MC 197)