Michael Chance has sung John Danyel on disc before. With lutenist Christopher Wilson he sang two of the songs in this Stradivarius recital - Grief Keep Within andHave All Our Passions - in an album called Sypres Curten of the Night on Chandos CHAN 0538. As is often the case, Danyel’s music was set alongside that by Campion, Ford, Holborne, Rosseter and Dowland. There is a certain value in considering these composers together, and it’s something that, before Chance, James Bowman and Robert Spencer had done on their 1980 Saga LP, in which many of the same composers’ music was to be heard. I’ll come back to that disc a little later.
It was Philip Heseltine who esteemed Danyel higher than Dowland. These games of musical strength are never very edifying, critically speaking, but it’s a judgement that we needn’t accept. Certainly History doesn’t accept it. True, Danyel’s cultivation of courtly nuance and his shadowing of Dowland’s ways and means are engrossing. He even spends some time alluding in a number of his own settings to Dowland’s Flow My Teares and Lachrimae. But time and again Danyel falls short of his almost exact contemporary in terms of the ultimate in memorable fibre and arresting power.
That acknowledged, Danyel’s settings are full of expressive intent and a very real sense of loss and entreaty, love and departure. These performances are very much aligned with the tradition of voice and lute, even though the title page of Danyel’s collection of songs specifies a bass viol as well. The reasons advanced for its excision in this recording are that the bass viol can over-part the lute and make the counterpoint more difficult - more opaque - to appreciate. The gain, I suppose, is a greater sense of sheer intimacy, and other musicians have taken this path as well.
In that respect there could be few better guides than Michael Chance. He has a feeling and awareness for Elizabethan and Stuart lyrics second to none, unless one includes his older contemporary James Bowman. And I recall, in another context, a performance Chance gave of Purcell’s Evening Hymn that struck me as perfect in its grace and in its awareness of the almost votive eroticism of the concluding long Allelujahs. I never expect to hear it bettered. But it’s idle to think that time has not taken something of a hold on his vocal production. That, and a recording with which I’m not really satisfied, conspires to blunt the clarity of his singing. Diction can be a problem here and the church acoustic robs the voice in particular of sharpness. There is a strange billowy quality to it in some of the songs - a lack of focus and a hootiness in the lower register. Higher up one can detect the intrusion of a pinched, snatched quality, as occurs in Dost thou withdraw thy grace? Dynamic shading is achieved well - it’s notable feature of Grief Keep Within - and the melancholy of many of the songs equally so. The artful and touching way Chance has with He whose desires are still abroad is one of the disc’s highlights. Unannounced in the booklet, the last song Now the earth, the skies, the air is double-tracked, so you get a double dose of Chance.
There are five lute solos interspersed throughout the recital and they are well played indeed by Paul Beier - who has also written the booklet notes - though not with quite the precision and personality of Nigel North in his Dowland recordings.
I mentioned a certain dissatisfaction with the acoustic. One can hear some noise - clothes moving? air displacing? - in the lute solos. There’s the lack of vocal clarity, some of which seems to be an acoustic matter. I mentioned Bowman earlier and he recorded three of these songs with lutenist Robert Spencer on an old Saga LP with music by the usual suspects - Campion, Holborne and Rosseter; the performances were more statuesque than those by Chance and Beier but perhaps a touch more moving too. This Stradivarius disc offers useful representation where all-Danyel discs are a rarity, but it brings with it some technical and other limitations.
Can doleful notes? [2:21]
No, let chromatic tunes [3:19]
Uncertain certain turns [1:49]
Dost thou withdraw thy grace? [1:23]
Pavan - Rosamund [5:44]
Eyes, look no more [5:03]
Coy Daphne fled [2:20]
Like as the Lute Delights [3:44]
Thou pretty bird, how do I see [1:45]
Griefe keepe within [2:24]
Drop not mine eyes [2:21]
Have all our passions [2:41]
Daniells Jigge [1:15]I die whenas I do not see [2:10]
Time, Cruel Time [3:35]
Stay, cruel, stay! [2:35]
If I could shut the gate [6:09]
Mistress Anne Grene Her Leaves Be Greene [5:05]
Let not Cloris think [2:40]
What delight can they enjoy [1:40]
He whose desires are still abroad [3:32]
Why canst thou not? [1:59]
Mounsiers Almayne [7:06]
Now the earth, the skies, the air [2:50]