Music from the English Courts
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Music for the Royal Fireworks (1749) [13:33]
John DOWLAND (1563-1626)
Flow my Teares [2:35]
Fine Knacks for Ladies [1:45]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Trumpet tunes and Airs [5:38]
Sonata for trumpet and strings [7:27]
Dido and Aeneas – Dido’s Lament [4:01]
Matthew LOCKE (c.1622-1677)
Music for His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts (1660) [11:07]
A Stuart Masque
Robert JOHNSON (1583-1633)
Prince’s Masque [0:59]
Orlando GIBBONS (1583-1625)
The Silver Swan [1:58]
Nicholas LANIER (1588-1666)
John ADSON (d.1640)
The Devil’s Dance [1:38]
HENRY VIII (1491-1547)
Pastime with Good Company [1:54]
The Merry Clerk [1:08]
Comedian’s Masque [0:49]
The Bee [0:42]
The House Measure [0:59]
The Fine Arts Brass Ensemble with Tristram Fry (percussion)
rec. June 1994, All Saints Church, Petersham
NIMBUS NI 5546 [58:46]
As the rather fuzzy booklet photograph shows, the Fine Arts Brass Ensemble is not averse to a little penguin-suited horseplay in its promotional material. Nothing too much mind, just a group deployment – kneeling tuba, trombone with the slide pushed well down, New Orleans style – that hints that these brassmen might enjoy the odd beverage. Admittedly the photo is old, because this disc is not new, having been recorded back in 1994, and whilst the hour-long recital certainly has its jaunty moments, it also has very serious ones too.
This album of English court music takes in both ceremonial music and music written for court masques. Some is well known, and I needn’t point out the towering Handelian contribution, whilst other pieces are less well known but highly imposing, such as Locke’s music. There are single examples by other composers in a masque context, and some anonymous pieces too.
The ensemble consists of two trumpets (Andy Culshaw and Bryan Allen), horn player Stephen Roberts, trombonist Simon Hogg, and tuba player Richard Sandland. From time to time, and where appropriate, they are joined by percussionist Tristram Fry. The Music for the Royal Fireworks goes well in this guise – the trumpets peal and the lower brass contrast well, and the way they broaden to the climax of the second Minuet is excitingly done. Taking their cue from the arrangement of Flow My Tears for a viol consort, Dowland’s great song has been arranged for brass ensemble. As throughout, I don’t know who carried out the transformative work, but it makes a nice pair with the same composer’s perky Fine Knacks for Ladies.
Purcell’s Trumpet tunes and airs derive from keyboard pieces, and the ensemble is joined by Fry. I took to the gravity conjured in the Minuet, and even more to the way the melody lines are handed around in the Air. Lilliburlero is jaunty indeed in this performance. Locke’s ceremonial music is movingly depicted, not least the opening Ayre, though its more exuberant qualities are well attended to as well. Purcell’s ‘trumpet and string’ sonata works quite well, the all-string second movement being replicated by the brass consort’s melancholy. The ‘Stuart Masque’ selection features a deal of cheeky virtuosity and, in the Comedian’s Masque, an element of slapstick. Adson’s The Devil’s Dance is crisply dispatched and Henry VIII’s contribution makes for a suitably roistering finale.
Whilst this recital has its jaunty moments, it also has very serious ones too.