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John DANYEL (1564 - 1626): "Songs to Mistress Anne Grene"

A Garden of Eloquence

rec: Nov 21 - 24, 2010, Beinwil (SO), Klosterkirche
Et'cetera - KTC 1423 (© 2011) (57'37")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - no translations
Cover & tracklist

Coy Daphne fled; Thou pretie Bird; Hee whose desires; Lyke as the Lute; Dost thou withdraw; Why canst thou not; Stay cruell stay; Tyme cruell tyme; Griefe keepe within (The first part); Drop not mine Eies (The second part); Have all our passions (The third part); Let not Cloris think; Can dolefull notes (The first part); No, let Chromatique tunes (The second part); Uncertaine certaine turnes (The third part); Eies looke no more; If I could shut the gate; I dye when as I doe not see; What delight can they enjoya; Now the Earth, the Skies, the Ayrea; Mistress Anne Grene her leaves bee greene

Sources: Songs for the Lute, Viol and Voice, 1606

Katharine Hawnt, soprano; Uri Smilansky, viola da gamba; Ziv Braha, lute
witha: Evelyn Tubb, soprano; Dan Dunkelblum, Dino Lüthy, tenor; Alexandra Polin, tenor viol; Michal Gondko, bass lute

The songs on this disc are virtually the only pieces for which John Danyel is known. He was a lutenist, and was appointed Musician to Prince Charles in 1617. It is noteworthy that his older brother Samuel was poet at the court. Some of the poems John has set are from Samuel's pen, for instance Lyke as the Lute delights. Anthony Rooley, who has written the liner-notes, assumes some other poems in the book - most of which are anonymous - may also have been written by Samuel. John Danyel also set some texts to music which were translations of poems by the famous Italian poet Giovanni Battista Guarini, like Thou pretie Bird. The texts of the last two songs, What delight can they enjoy and Now the Earth, the Skies, the Ayre, are translations of two sonnets by Petrarch.

The collection is dedicated to "Mrs Anne Grene the worthy Daughter to Sr William Grene of Milton Knight". Danyel was Mrs Grene's lute teacher, and the lute piece which closes the book bears witness to that: Mistress Anne Grene her leaves bee greene. Anthony Rooley points out that the piece itself contains a "hidden reference to Anne by the fact of a wholly unprecedented re-tuning of the lute that requires all the strings to slip a semitone or more, but for the 'A' string and the 'G' string - Apollo, and the music tutor are unstable whilst she remains constant and steadfast. Rooley's mention of Apollo refers to his interpretation of this book as a kind of song cycle with a storyline about Apollo and Daphne, representing John Danyel as musician and Anne Grene as his student. It is notable that in the very first song Daphne is mentioned (Coy Daphne fled). There are several songs which refer in some way or another to Grene. "The name 'Chloris', for example, appears several times, and is the Greek for 'green'."

This book of songs has always been considered one of the highest quality, but it has been recorded complete only once before. In 1995 Hyperion released a disc with all the extant music by Danyel. It included not only the present Songs for the Lute, Viol and Voice but also three pieces for lute solo and two lute duets. In that recording the songs were performed in random order and were allotted to various singers. This new recording reflects Anthony Rooley's view of the book as a kind of cycle in that the songs are performed in the order in which they are printed, and performed by the same singer. The last two songs are different in that they are written for various voices and instruments. Here the ensemble A Garden of Eloquence is extended by singers and players who are connected to the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, as are the members of the ensemble and Anthony Rooley.

Anthony Rooley writes that the name of the ensemble is highly appropriate as it refers to rhetorics which was so important at the time. This name also arouses expectations. I am happy to say that the performers fully live up to them. The performances by Katharine Hawnt, Uri Smilansky and Ziv Braha are very eloquent indeed. The delivery of Ms Hawnt is immaculate and she expresses the text with great care. The viola da gamba and the lute give excellent support and contribute to the expressive power of these songs. It has to be said, though, that these are hard to understand, in particular for non-English speakers. The record company hasn't been very forthcoming by omitting any translations. Lastly I need to express my regret that the pronunciation is in no way historically oriented. The interpreters have studied with Anthony Rooley, and he may have been a pioneer of this repertoire, a historical pronunciation has never interested him. There is still much work to do in this department.

Johan van Veen (© 2011)

Relevant links:

A Garden of Eloquence

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