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Flow My Tears : Songs for Lute, Viol and Voice
Robert JOHNSON (c.1583-1633)
Have you seen the bright lily grow? [2:48]
Care-charming sleep [3:35]
From the famous peak of Derby [1:26]
John DOWLAND (1563-1626)
Preludium (instrumental) [1:20]
A Fancy (instrumental) [2:11]
Come again, sweet love doth now invite [4:00]
In darkness let me dwell [3:56]
Can she excuse my wrongs [2:15]
Flow my tears [4:25]
Now, o now I needs must part with The Frog Galliard [5:20]
John DANYEL (c.1564-c.1626)
Mrs M.E. Her funeral tears for the death of her husband [8:13]
Why canst thou not? [1:19]
Can doleful notes? [7:34]
Thomas CAMPION (1567-1620)
Never weather-beaten sail [1:35]
I care not for these ladies [2:00]
Nico MUHLY (b.1981)
Old Bones [10:51]
Tobias HUME (d. 1645)
First Part of Ayres (instrumental): A Souldier’s Galliard [1:27]: Love’s Farewell [3:44]: A Souldier’s Resolution [3:03]
Iestyn Davies (counter-tenor): Thomas Dunford (lute): Jonathan Manson (viol)
rec. 5 July 2013, live, Wigmore Hall, London

Iestyn Davies, Thomas Dunford and Jonathan Manson’s recital was given at Wigmore Hall on 5 July 2013 and is part of the hall’s ‘Live’ series of discs. Whereas he has elsewhere specialised in Dowland – his Hyperion album ‘The Art of Melancholy’ did precisely that - this one is a little more contextual, placing the composer alongside contemporaries John Danyel and Thomas Campion as well as the younger Robert Johnson and Tobias Hume. There is also a world premiere performance of the prolific Nico Muhly’s Old Bones.

They begin with a song that many would have sung as an encore, Johnson’s Have you seen the bright lily grow? but when it’s sung, and played, with such beautifully focused tone and expressive intensity no one’s minding. The sequence of three Johnson songs also includes the engagingly dispatched From the famous peak of Derby. Dunford takes centre-stage for two Dowland instrumentals – the recital is well programmed in terms of variety and mood, even allowing for the melancholic nature of most of the material – and then there’s a performance of Danyel’s Mrs M.E. Her funeral tears for the death of her husband. Her identity is lost to us and the three movements that make up this memorial piece are often performed separately. It does however generate a far greater sense of concentration when they run as intended and the use of the (optional) viol adds its own depth and tonal gravity not always there when the voice is supported only by the lute. Davies sings this with great perception never allowing his vibrato to swell on exposed notes, preferring instead to remain within stylistic and vocal constraints.

Many of the settings are necessarily brief, and this is true of Campion’s beautiful Never weather-beaten sail, a candidate - if ever there was one - for the replay button. It’s sung with exquisite refinement and elicits knowing, merited applause. Reading the notes I thought, however, that it had been established that Tobias Hume, whose instrumental pieces are played by Jonathan Manson with great spirit, was Scottish not English as the booklet states. The sequence of five Dowland songs to some extent replicates things Davies has sung on disc before, but since they are among the composer’s most famous songs that’s hardly surprising. They have been well sequenced, the metrical elasticity of Flow my tears being especially notable. Now, O now I needs must part segues into the instrumental The Frog Galliard – the song and the instrumental share the same tune – and it’s conjectured that courtiers would have played both as a single item in the way it’s presented here.

Muhly’s novelty comes as something of a surprise. It takes media texts on the subject of the discovery of the bones of Richard III in Leicester and conjoins them with shards of poetry praising his supposed killer, Rhys ap Tomas. A news report recitative opens Old Bones, and there is an ensuing processional and moments for lute interludes. These last I find rather repetitious, and the whole work, at eleven minutes, over-extended.

Despite this relative disappointment, it in no way dispels admiration for this beautifully performed recital.

Jonathan Woolf


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