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Anthony HOLBORNE (c1545 - 1602): Pavans and Galliards, 1599

The Guildhall Waits; The Consort of Musicke
Dir: Trevor Jones, Anthony Rooley

rec: April 1980, London, The Decca Studios, West Hampstead
Decca - 480 1802 (R) [ADD] (© 1980/2011) (42'38")
Liner-notes: E

Pavan (11); Galliard (12); Paradizo (17); Sighes (18); Infernum (21); Galliard (22); The Image of Melancholy (27); Ecce quam bonum (28); The Funerals (31); Galliard (32); Heres Paternus (33); Muy Linda (34); Sic semper soleo (50); Almayne (56); The Honiesuckle (60); As it fell on a holie eve (64); Heigh ho holiday (65)

Source: Pavans, Galliards, Almains and Other Short Aeirs both Grave, and Light, in Five Parts, for Viols, Violins, or Other Musicall Winde Instruments, 1599

[CoM] Monica Huggett, Polly Waterfield, Trevor Jones, Mark Caudle, Richard Webb, violin; Trevor Jones, Alison Crum, Oliver Hirsh, Gregor Anthony, Piet Stryckers, viola da gamba; Anthony Rooley, lute; Alan Wilson, virginals
[GW] Jeremy West, Jonathan Morgan, cornett; Paul Niemann, Martin Pope, sackbut; Andrew Watts, curtal

The 1970s and early 1980s were an exciting time for lovers of early music in period instrument performances. Historical performance practice was still in its formative years, and recordings with period instruments were not all that common. So every new initiative was welcomed with eagerness and curiosity. One such which met great interest was L'Oiseau Lyre's Florilegium series. Anthony Rooley and his Consort of Musicke were one of the pillars of this series. Many recordings were released which put composers on the map who until then were hardly more than names in a dictionary. Some of them were included in concerts with music of the renaissance, but John Dowland was probably the only composer of the English renaissance to whom complete discs were devoted.
That all changed drastically with the emergence of the Florilegium series. Thanks to the Consort of Musicke complete collections of motets, madrigals and consort music were released. All of a sudden the likes of Thomas Morley, Thomas Tomkins, John Ward, John Jenkins and Anthony Holborne became household names. The rich musical heritage of the golden era in English music history - which we now call the 'Elizabethan' and the 'Jacobean' eras - was brought to life.

It can only be welcomed that these recordings are being reissued again. I am not sure how many of those will appear, but many of them deserve to be brought to the attention of music lovers again. Surprisingly some of the composers Anthony Rooley and his colleagues paid attention to are still not frequently performed and recorded. This disc is devoted to one of the most important publications of instrumental music of the decades around 1600, the Pavans and Galliards of 1599 by Anthony Holborne. In his foreword to this reissue Anthony Rooley states that this recording "remains the only integral recording of this important publication". I find this rather puzzling: this disc is no "integral" recording. Holborne's collection contains 65 pieces, and here only 18 are selected. And since this recording was first released several other recordings with music by Holborne have appeared. As far as I know there is no recording of the complete collection.

Holborne's collection of Pavans and Galliards is well worth being recorded in its entirety. It is very fine music, and typical of its time. As Anthony Rooley writes various pieces reflect no less the fashionable melancholy of the time than Dowland's more famous oeuvre. In this collection it is in particular the pavans which express this mood, as the titles indicate: The Image of Melancholy, Pavana Ploravit (the Latin verb "plorare" means "to weep"), and The Funerals. They are usually followed by a more light-hearted galliard. The pavan and the galliard, mostly written in pairs, were the most popular dance-forms in England in Holborne's time. In this recording they are always played in pairs, and the numbers between brackets show that the connection between them is by Holborne himself.

The Consort of Musicke performs these pieces with two various ensembles. Firstly the most common at the time: the consort of viols. Secondly the consort of violins, which was mainly the product of Italian musicians entering the country, and bringing their violins with them. In addition, some pieces, among them the last four, which are of a more joyful nature, are played by The Guildhall Waits, a consort of cornetts and sackbuts, with an additional curtal - an instrument which was called dulcian in Italy. This combination of instruments was usually used for outdoor performances, and it is not hard to imagine that some of the more extroverted dances in the programme may have been performed in the open air.

Since 1980 other recordings with pieces from this collection have been released. One of them is the one by Hespèrion XX, directed by Jordi Savall (Alia Vox, 2000). These performances are more extroverted, and the sound of the viols is richer and more colourful. But that recording is marred by questionable scorings, for example the frequent addition of harpsichord and even percussion. And taking into consideration that the present recording is 30 years old it sounds remarkably fresh. All the more reason to welcome it: the music is great and the interpretation has survived the passage of time pretty well.

Fortunately the liner notes of the original release have been reprinted. Unfortunately the names of the musicians have been omitted, although there was plenty of space in the booklet. I have listed them in the header of this review.

Johan van Veen (© 2012)

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