It was understandable that misplaced optimism led some to refer to the early years of the present Queen’s reign as a “new Elizabethan age”. It is certainly understandable that they should hope for a repeat of an earlier period in many respects so full of achievement. That was very much the case with music, and the quality and variety of music on this disc, only a tiny sample of what was produced at the time, is an eloquent reminder of this. Not that all of it really fits the description of the title. The motet by the Flemish composer Rogier was not written for Elizabeth but it was published in England as being by Thomas Morley. Some items, including Gibbons’ “O clap your hands”, were written after Elizabeth’s death in 1603. The items on the disc were in fact originally chosen as part of an entertainment with the same title which tells of a single night on one of the Queen’s royal progresses. The full text of this entertainment, devised by Deborah Mackay, will be included on the Naxos website although it is not available at the time of writing.
The mere titles of the items on the disc do not really convey its variety. As well as madrigals of various types, including several from the collection “The Triumphs of Oriana”, there are religious pieces, two lute songs and two items for solo lute. The latter, played by Jacob Heringman, are particularly enjoyable. The songs are slightly less so, being performed in a somewhat impersonal manner with little variation between verses. They are nonetheless welcome in adding variety to the programme, most of which consists of choral items. These are sung sometimes one to a part and sometimes with the voices doubled. The more intimate and transparent sound of the former is much to be preferred in terms of clarity and blend, and the result has much more character. Indeed if I have a criticism of the generally more than adequate singing on the disc it is that the special character of individual pieces is not made apparent. The somewhat close and unatmospheric recording does not help in this respect. Nonetheless there is much to enjoy here. There was room for many other pieces which if included would have made this disc even more recommendable to the listener wanting a general anthology of (mainly) English music of this period.
Thomas WEELKES (c.1575-1623) As Vesta was from Latmos Hill descending [3:43]
Thomas HUNT (1580-1658) Hark! Did ye ever hear? [3:18]
William BYRD (c.1540-1623) O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth [2:56]
Orlando GIBBONS (1583-1625) O clap your hands [5:11]
ANON Robin is to the greenwood tree [2:13]
Alfonso FERRABOSCO (c.1575-1628) So beauty on the waters stood [1:42]
Philippe ROGIER (c.1561-1596) Laboravi in gemitu meo [6:04]
Michael EAST (c.1580-1648) Hence, stars, too dim of light [1:55]
John WILBYE (1574-1638) Oft have I vow’d [3:53]; Ye that do live in pleasures [2:40]; Draw on, sweet night [5:22]
John DOWLAND (c.1563-1626) Time stands still [3:27]; The Right Honourable the Lady Rich, her galliard [1:48]
Thomas TOMKINS (1572-1656) Adieu, ye city-prisoning towers [2:23]
Thomas MORLEY (1558-1603) Hard by a crystal fountain [4:07]