Dancing in the Isles
Trad arr Musica Pacifica Five English Country Dances [9:19]; Various composers including William BYRD (c.1543-1623), Giles FARNABY (c.1563-1640) & Robert JOHNSON (c.1583-1633) An English Court Masque [11:02]; James OSWALD (1710-1769) Sonata in D minor on Scots Tunes [10:56]; Matthew LOCKE (c.1621-1677) Suite No 4 in C major [8:49]; Trad arr Elizabeth Blumenstock Five Scots tunes [6:58]; Five Irish tunes [7:18]; Nicola MATTEIS (c.1714) Ayres in G major [9:25]; Francesco VERACINI (1690-1768) Scozzese from Sonata in A major Op 2 No 9 [6:11]; Henry PURCELL (1659-1695) Three Parts upon a Ground Z.731 [4:55]
Musica Pacifica (Judith Linsenberg (recorders and whistle), Elizabeth Blumenstock and Robert Mealy (baroque violins), David Morris (baroque cello and viola da gamba), Peter Maund (percussion), Charles Weaver (theorbo and baroque guitar), Charles Sherman (harpsichord))
rec. 28-31 August 2008, Tateuchi Hall, Mountain View, CA
SOLIMAR 101 CD [74:58]

The purpose of this disc is said to be to reflect the various musical cross-currents that existed in the British Isles in the 17th and 18th centuries. Whilst it would be unreasonable to expect that this could be wholly achieved in a single disc restricted to instrumental music, it certainly shows the way in which British music was enriched by a variety of influences and styles, in particular those of Scotland, Italy and France. This is most obvious in the works by Oswald and Veracini, which use Scottish or Scottish-type tunes in a formal context deriving from Italian examples. Both are immensely entertaining works, melodically rich and individual in character. Matthew Locke’s Suite and the Masque Dances are more obviously English in origin, as are the Ayres by Matteis, although there the Italian influence is stronger. Purcell as usual manages to turn French influences into something very English in character.

What matters, however, much more than trying to identify the derivations of each of the works is just how good they are as music, and the extent to which the performers have captured their individual characters. Even if none of the works here apart from the Purcell are out and out masterpieces almost all are worth hearing. The haunting Veracini movement is my personal favourite, but the general standard is high. The various folk dances are given in arrangements which clearly update them without turning them into wholly modern pieces. Better still, none outstay their welcome and all respect the basic character of the music.

The playing is crisp and varied, making good use of period instruments and style. My only doubt is over the Oswald where the whole point is surely that the “wild” Scottish tunes were being clothed in the respectable dress of a Trio Sonata. To play the tunes in a “folksy” style tends to spoil the joke, although I must admit to enjoying the final result. Indeed I enjoyed the disc as a whole. It is well recorded and well presented with good notes. Maybe I did not find myself dancing in the aisles, but I was not far off it. This is an interesting and companionable disc.

John Sheppard

An interesting and companionable disc.