John Maynard: The XII Wonders of the World - Character Songs John MAYNARD(1576/77 – 1614/1633) The XII Wonders of the World:
The Courtier [1:38]
The Divine [2:47]
The Souldiour [1:18]
The Lawyer [2:19]
The Physition [2:54]
The Marchant [2:07]
The Countrey Gentleman [2:24]
The Batchelar [1:45]
The Marryed Man [2:14]
The Wife [2:30]
The Widow [2:53]
The Maid [2:18] Thomas CAMPION (1567-1620) Jack and Joan [2:07] Tobias HUME (1569?-1645) Tobacco, tobacco [1:44] anon A poor soul sat sighing [5:05] The dark is my delight [1:08] O let us howle [3:19] Thomas RAVENSCROFT(c1582/1592-1635) Yonder comes a courteous knight [5:17] anon Come live with me and be my love [4:50] What is't ye lack [4:13] Richard PARSONS(?-?) Joan quoth John [4:24]
The Consort of Musicke (Emma Kirkby (soprano), John York Skinner
(alto), Paul Elliott, Martyn Hill (tenor), David Thomas (bass),
Trevor Jones (bass viol), Anthony Rooley (lute))/Anthony Rooley
rec. January 1975, Decca Studios, West Hampstead, London, UK. DDD
DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 2145 [60:19]
The closer music is connected to the culture of a country, the
harder it is for foreigners to understand what it is about.
That is also the case with the repertoire recorded on this disc,
which was written in the Jacobean era, the first quarter of
the 17th century in England. Some aspects can be explained in
liner-notes, but there is a good chance the finer details will
escape those who are not familiar with English traditions and
who are not native English speakers. The producers here have
not been very forthcoming as no translations of the lyrics in
any other language are given. Anthony Rooley does some explaining
in the case of the songs by Maynard, but is rather economical
in his notes as to the other pieces on the programme. I have
to admit that I only get the broad tenor of what this music
is all about.
About half of the programme is devoted to a cycle of songs by
John Maynard, The XII Wonders of the World. He belongs
among the least-known composers of the era, and biographical
data is scarce. He was born in St Albans in Hertfordshire in
1576 or 1577, and was active as a player of the lute and the
lyra viol. The songs on this disc are from the only collection
of music by Maynard ever published. It appeared in 1611 and
in addition to the twelve songs contains six dances for lute
and bass viol and seven pavans for lyra viol and bass viol ad
libitum. Apart from this collection only a pavan and galliard
for lyra viol has come down to us. A Voluntary for organ is
a transcription of the last song from the cycle and an incomplete
two-part almain is of doubtful authenticity.
The songs are character pieces which describe, sometimes in
a rather ironic way, the various personalities or occupations.
What exactly was the reason they were written? I quote Anthony
Rooley in his notes in the booklet rather than try to explain
it myself: "Here is music from the very heart of elite
Jacobean society; this is functional music intended to entertain
and delight Noble Society and Intelligentsia, and specifically
at the end of the Feast of Christmas, at Twelfth Night partying.
Painted 'roundels' were customarily placed at each guest's seat
at the banquet where one side was plain, turned upmost, with
the underside painted in characterful style with one of the
basic human characters (there were thought to be twelve basic
personality types according to renaissance psychology). Loaded
with grapes and 'sweetmeats', when these roundels were cleared
of food, they were turned over to reveal which 'character' the
reveller had been given by chance. 'The Wife', 'The Widow',
'The Maid' were female, all the other nine male, and as each
was turned over, no doubt to squeals, giggles and laughter,
in 1611 the appropriate musical setting was performed - to general
All songs by Maynard are for one voice with bass viol and lute.
From a historical point of view they are notable for the fact
that the lute and viol parts are to some extent independent,
which was unusual at the time. In The Consort of Musicke's performance
the three female characters are sung by Emma Kirkby while the
males are divided across Paul Ellliott, Martyn Hill and David
Thomas. They try - with some success - to express the various
characters in their way of singing, making a clear difference
between, for instance, 'The Souldiour' (soldier) and 'The Courtier'.
When this disc was recorded Anthony Rooley could have decided
to perform the whole collection. In a way it is unfortunate
that he held back. Since then hardly anything by Maynard has
been recorded, and I doubt whether the instrumental pieces from
this collection will ever be recorded. That allowance being
made, the programme as it is certainly makes sense. Among the
nicest pieces are Tobacco, tobacco by Tobias Hume, and
the anonymous What is't ye lack, whose humorous character
is excellently expressed by David Thomas. A beautiful song is
the anonymous The dark is my delight, which is nicely
sung by Emma Kirkby. The other songs are a bit hard for me to
understand. The lack of translations is a pity, but understanding
is made even harder by the fact that large parts of the lyrics
are missing from the booklet. From A poor soul sat sighing
only one stanza is printed correctly, the others are missing,
and some lines are printed which are not sung. In Come live
with me and be my love the first half is sung by Martyn
Hill, the second by Emma Kirkby. But the lyrics of her part
of the song are missing.
It is great that the recordings by The Consort of Musicke which
were first released as part of L'Oiseau Lyre's Florilegium series
are being reissued, but the production could have been more
careful. And unless this disc is only directed towards the English-speaking
market one might expect at least some translations of the liner-notes
and the lyrics.
None of this has spoilt my enjoyment of these performances.
My only reservation regards the contributions of John York Skinner.
I find his voice not very attractive and his singing rather
dull. The anonymous A poor soul sat sighing has been
performed so much better by James Bowman in his debut recording.
Even so, this disc should appeal to all lovers of English early
music and of English culture in general.
Johan van Veen
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