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Sweete Musicke of Sundrie Kindes
The Royal Wind Music (Petri Arvo, Stephanie Brandt, Ruth Dyson, Eva Gemeinhardt, Arwieke Glas, Hester Groenleer, Karin Hageneder, Kyuri Kim, Marco Magalhães, María Martínez Ayerza, Filipa Margarida Pereira, Anna Stegmann (recorder))/Paul Leenhouts
rec. 25-29 April 2011, De Duif, Amsterdam, Netherlands. DDD
LINDORO NL-3023 [58:50]

Consort music was one of the main genres of instrumental music in England in the 16th century and the first half of the 17th. It reflected the stile antico of the renaissance as all the voices were treated on strictly equal terms. A consort could comprise various instruments, mostly from one family, such as recorders, violins or viols. A consort with instruments from different families - for instance recorders, viols and some plucked instruments - was known as a 'broken consort'. In most cases composers did not specify for which combination of instruments they composed their works. That leaves much freedom to the interpreters. Most music recorded here is usually played with viols, but an ensemble of recorders is fully legitimate.

The amount of music specifically written for instrumental ensemble was limited in the first half of the 16th century, but then gradually increased reflecting the growing popularity of the consort. The fantasia and dances were among the most frequently played pieces. In addition, the instrumental performance of vocal items became quite common. The vocal origin of some pieces is clear from their titles, even though they were mostly conceived as instrumental works. That goes especially for the Miserere by Robert Mallorie which opens the programme, but also Weelkes' In Nomine, one of many pieces with this title. In fact, the In Nomine settings developed into a genre of their own, based on a phrase from John Taverner's Missa Gloria tibi trinitas. Edmund Turges's Alas, it is I that wot not what to say is a three-part secular song; Tallis's When shall my sorrowful sighing slack a part-song for four voices.

Fantasies - usually called fancies - were among the most frequently composed instrumental works. A Fancy by James Harding is just one example. Another significant composer of such music was Giovanni Coperario. As far as the dance repertoire is concerned, the combination of pavan and galliard was especially popular. Anthony Holborne included many of them in his collection of instrumental music of 1599 which was the first printed edition of such repertoire in English history. William Brade, who spent most of his career in Denmark and Germany, published several collections of dance music. Popular songs were the subject of many pieces in different scorings, for lute, keyboard or consort. William Byrd's Browning is a specimen of the latter. John Dowland was also a major composer of instrumental music. His Lachrimae, or Seven Teares is the most famous collection of instrumental music of the English renaissance, reflecting a state of mind which was quite fashionable at the time: melancholy. Semper Dowland semper dolens exists in a version for consort and one for lute alone.

Consort music was written across Europe in the 16th century but in England it remained in vogue much longer than elsewhere. The last consort music is from the pen of Henry Purcell. He also contributed to a typical English genre, the masque. In such pieces vocal and instrumental music was mingled with spoken dialogue. Several items from the present programme have their roots in masques, such as Coperario's Coperario, or Gray's Inn, the First which comes from Francis Beaumont's Masque of the Inner Temple and Gray's Inn, a so-called antimasque, defined in New Grove as a "comic or grotesque interlude in a masque, normally preceding the terminal dances of the masquers." The subject was "mundane humour and the bizarre". Pieces like John Bull's The Bull Masque and the anonymous The Cupids' Dance also find their origin in the masque. Especially interesting are the two pieces of programmatic music: Robert Parsons' A Songe calles Trumpetts and Clement Woodcock's Hackney. The latter's title refers to a public carriage for hire which appeared on the scene at the end of the 16th century.

The different character of the pieces selected for this programme results in plenty of variety. Solemn pieces are followed by more playful items, and stately tempi by lively dance rhythms. The players have captured the character of the various pieces very well. It is a great achievement to play so immaculately in tune; it's anything but easy on recorders. It certainly helps that the instruments played here are all based on a set of original Bassano recorders which are kept in the Musikhistorisches Museum in Vienna. In some items the players have added diminutions, according to the practice of the time. Most pieces are played with two recorders per part, and that seems the only questionable aspect of this recording. The booklet includes an informative essay on the programme and its historical context by Paul Leenhouts, but unfortunately he avoids this issue.

However, that doesn't bothered me unduly. This is a highly interesting and entertaining programme which is brilliantly played. Unless you really hate the recorder, you will find this disc irresistible.

Johan van Veen

Robert (?) MALLORIE (?-1572)
Miserere a 5 [3:30]
Robert PARSONS (c1530-1572)
A Songe called Trumpetts a 6 [1:33]
John COPRARIO (c1570-1626)
Untitled (Fantasia) a 6 [3:36]
Coperario, or Gray's Inn, the First a 6 [1:15]
Edmund TURGES (c1450-?)
Alas, it is I that wot not what to say a 3 [3:47]
Thomas TALLIS (c1505-1585)
When shall my sorrowful sighing slack? a 4 [2:54]
William BRADE (1560-1630)
Galliard a 6 [1:13]
Galliard a 5 [2:09]
John DOWLAND (c1563-1626)
Semper Dowland semper dolens a 5 [7:07]
M. Buctons Galliard a 5 [0:54]
Susanna Galliard a 5 [1:04]
James HARDING (c1560-1626)
A Fancy a 4 [3:24]
Thomas WEELKES (1576-1623)
In Nomine a 5 [3:47]
William BYRD (1543-1623)
Browning a 5 [3:36]
Clement WOODCOCK (fl c1575)
Hackney a 5 [0:59]
Anthony HOLBORNE (c1545-1602)
The image of Melancholly a 5 (pavan) [5:35]
Heigh ho holiday a 5 (galliard) [1:24]
William's Love a 5 [2:05]
John BULL (1562-1628)
The Bull Masque a 5 [1:13]
The Cupid's Dance a 5 [1:26]
The Maypole a 5 [2:33]
[Anti-Masque] a 5 [2:06]