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The Tudors – I love, alas
Robert Spence (lute)
Jeremy Brett (reader)
Purcell Consort of Voices/Grayston Burgess
rec. 29 May 1969, Decca Studio 3, West Hampstead, London
ELOQUENCE 482 2570 [48:42]

The Tudors – Lo, country sports
James Tyler (lute)
John Neville (reader)
Purcell Consort of Voices/Grayston Burgess
rec. 1969/70, St John’s, Smith Square, London
ELOQUENCE 482 2562 [44:58]

These Tudor confections are jolly good fun and most entertaining, even if they’re now museum pieces in themselves.

These two discs were first released in 1970 and 1971. Now re-released by Eloquence, they contain collections of secular Elizabethan madrigals along the themes of the discs’ titles, and they’re rather lovely. In fact, listening to each all the way through is a bit like attending a museum exhibition, because they contain a collection of different genres, curated as a set. There is instrumental music, both for the lute in I love, alas and for a viol consort in Lo, country sports. Then there’s the vocal music in all its variety, and lastly there is poetry, interspersed among the music and commenting on its mood. That’s why they both work to listen to all through in one sitting, and I actually found the poetry extremely enjoyable rather than something to skip through to get to the next musical track. The enthusiastic readers relish they beauty of their word pictures, and Jeremy Brett (surely the best TV Sherlock Holmes!) is particularly pleasing on the ear, successfully evoking scenes of sighing maids, longing shepherds and love-struck gentlemen.

The music itself is pretty varied, even if it’s all of a piece. There is, of course, lots of fa-la-la’ing and jolly evocations of amorous shepherd boys, but nobody who knows anything about Elizabethan madrigals will be surprised at that. There is variety, too, both in terms of the music itself and the forces deployed to sing it. In I love, alas, for example, there are plenty of gentle love songs that celebrate the joy of love, such as Sing we at pleasure and, of course, the title track. Others, however, suggest the sweet longing of love, such as Hope of my heart, and some, like Lock up, fair lids, are extended meditations on the themes of lovesickness and melancholy.

Similarly, Lo, country sports contains a series of celebrations of the pastoral life, but also the longing for isolation and for peaceful love that tends to go with this by association. There is jolliness and bounce to tracks like O stay, sweet love (with its “chubby, chubby birds”) and Down in a valley; but others such as Farewell, sweet woods and mountains, are shot through with that special melancholy that you cannot imagine hearing anywhere other than in the Tudor century. Sing after, fellows is about as characteristic a Tudor piece as you could imagine, viols and singers seeming to dance with one another, despite the rather odd rustic singing accents.

I’d never come across the Purcell Consort of Voices before hearing these discs, but I loved the sense of intimacy and immediacy that they bring to the music. There are six of them for I love, alas and seven for Lo, country sports, and they create a sound that comes across as very domestic and intimate, something that could easily be happening in a front room or a chamber decorated with an arras. There are solos, too, all of which are well taken, and the whole sense is of intruding on something rather private, almost like a Schubertiade evening.

The performances are very much of their time, however. The singers pay very little attention to what we would now call “period style”, sounding very twentieth century with their plummy vowels and middle class intonation (except for the affected yokel accents that creep into a couple of tracks in Lo, country sports. Likewise, the lute is played as though it were the guitar, and the viol consort would doubtless be drummed out of town by the authenticist lobby today.

None of this bothered me for an instant, however, and I doubt it will bother anyone who is curious enough to acquire either of these discs. The recorded sound is good, and the discs give you a window into a lovingly crafted historical experience.

Simon Thompson

Contents
The Tudors – I love, alas
1 DOWLAND: My Lady Rich’s Galliard
2 SIDNEY: Loved I am and yet complain of Love
3 MORLEY: I love, alas, I love thee
4 WEELKES: Lady, your eye my love enforced
5 HOLBORNE: The Countess of Pembroke’s Paradise
6 SIDNEY: O fair, O sweet, when I do look on thee
7 WILBYE: Lady, when I behold the roses sprouting
8 WEELKES: Sing we at pleasure
9 SIDNEY: All my sense thy sweetness gained
10 VAUTOR: Lock up, fair lids
11 ANONYMOUS: Loth to depart
12 GIBBONS: Ah, dear heart, why do you rise
13 SIDNEY: My mistress lours
14 WEELKES: My Phyllis bids me pack away
15 KIRBYE: See, what a maze of error
16 DOWLAND: My Lord Willobie’s Welcome Home
17 SIDNEY: With two strange fires
18 WARD: Hope of my heart
19 VAUTOR: Never did any more delight
20 TOMKINS: Come, shepherd, sing with me
21 SIDNEY: My lute, within thyself thy tunes enclose
22 PILKINGTON: Of softly singing lute
23 ANONYMOUS: Sir Philip Sidney’s Lamentation

The Tudors – Lo, country sports
1 ANONYMOUS: Almain
2 TOMKINS: Adieu, ye city-prisoning towers
3 WEELKES: Lo, country sports that seldom fades
4 BRETON: Shepherd and Shepherdess
5 EAST: Sweet muses, nymphs and shepherds sporting
6 YOUNG: The shepherd, Arsilius’s, repl
7 FARMER: O stay, sweet love
8 FARNABY: Pearce did love fair Petronel
9 CAVENDISH: Down in a valley
10 NASHE: Spring, the sweet Spring
11 EAST: Thyrsis, sleepest thou?
12 RAVENSCROFT: Sing after, fellows
13 ANONYMOUS: The Wych
14 WEELKES: Whilst youthful sports are lasting
15 BATESON: Come, follow me, fair nymphs
16 LODGE: Corydon’s Song
17 VAUTOR: Mother I will have a husband
18 CAMPION: Jack and Joan
19 BENNET: The hunt is up
20 RAVENSCROFT: Tomorrow the fox will come to town
21 JOHNSON: Alman
22 FARNABY: Pearce did dance with Petronella
23 WEELKES: Our country swains in the Morris Dance
24 BOLTON: A Canzon Pastora
25 EAST: Farewell, sweet woods and mountains

 

 




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