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"A Noble Noyse of Musicke"

Christopher Field, alto; Paul Leenhouts, recorder; Israel Golani, lute; Johan Hofmann, harpsichord; Matthias Havinga, organ; The Royal Wind Music

rec: June 21 - 25, 2004, Fransum (Neth), NH Kerk; June 26, 2004, Uttum (G), Reformierte Kirche
Lindoro - MPC-0118 (© 2007) (63'15")

Richard ALLISON (c1560-c1610): Quadran Pavan; anon: Farewell the bliss; I love unloved; In Paradisea; John BULL (c1562-1628): English toy; In Nomine IV; Irish toy; William BYRD (1543-1623): Ave verum corpus [3]; Fantasia I a 6; Thomas CAMPION (1567-1620): Author of light [6]; Edward COLLARD (fl c1598): Go from my window; John COPRARIO (c1570-1626): Fortune and glory [7]; John DANYEL (1564-c1626): Can doleful notes? [4]; Time, cruel time [4]; Anthony HOLBORNE (c1545-1602): Galliard The Teares of the Muses [2]; John REDFORD (c1486-1547): O lux beata Trinitatis [1]; Thomas TALLIS: Iam lucis orto sidere [1]; When shall my sorrowful sighing slack [1]; WILLIAM Mure of Rowallan (1594-1657): Corn Gaird(es) [5]; Gypsies Lilt [5]; Kathrein Bairdie [5]; Ouer the Dek Davie [5]

(Sources: [1] The Mulliner Book, 16th C; [2] Anthony Holborne, Pavans, Galliards, Almains and other Aeirs, 1599; [3] William Byrd, Gradualia, Part I, 1605; [4] John Danyel, Songs for the Lute, Viol and Voice, 1606; [5] The Rowallan Lute Book, c1612-13; [6] Thomas Campion, The First Booke of Ayres, 1613; [7] John Coprario, Songs of Mourning, 1613)

[RWM] Erik Bosgraaf, Stephanie Brandt, Lena Chatzigrigoriou, Jon Daniels, Arwieke Glas, Hester Groenleer, Miako Klein, Matthijs Lunenburg, María Martínez Ayerza, Amy Power, Monika Ruusmaa, Ann-Katrin Seifert, recorder

I must admit that I don't particularly like recordings like this one. It contains no less than 22 pieces which are very different in character and scoring. That guarantees great variety which in itself is not a bad thing. But when most pieces are very short a programme like this threatens to lack coherence and become a bit short-winded. And that is the problem here, I feel.

The disc is different from what I had expected. The cover gives only the name of The Royal Wind Music and therefore I was looking forward to listening to this ensemble. I have heard it for the first time during the Early Music Festival in Utrecht in 2007, and I was very impressed. It consists of 12 recorder players which perform music written between 1500 and 1640. Everyone who is not a stranger in the world of early music knows how hard it is to create a well-blending sound with a consort of recorders and to keep such an ensemble in tune. During the concert this ensemble didn't seem to have any problems in this regard. In addition they gave splendid performances of the repertoire on their programme.

Unfortunately the ensemble is playing in only six of the 22 items on the programme. The other pieces are played by guests, who play on organ, harpsichord (from what I hear it is not a virginal, like the booklet states), lute and solo recorder. In addition there are some contributions from the alto Christopher Field.

What speaks in favour of this disc is the choice of compositions: the most popular pieces have been avoided, and we get a series of pieces instead which are probably never recorded before, like the lute pieces by William Mure of Rowallan. And composers like Richard Allison and Edward Collard are also not frequently recorded. John Coprario, John Danyel and Thomas Campion are a little better-known, but their inclusion on this disc is something to cherish. Only some compositions are regularly performed, like the keyboard works by Bull and Tallis. William Byrd's motet Ave verum corpus may belong to his most popular sacred works, here it is performed in an intabulation at the organ.

Other pieces are also arranged here. John Danyel's song Time, cruel time is played on the recorder and the lute, and his song Can doleful notes?, from a collection of songs for lute, viol and voice, is performed here with the harpsichord accompanying the voice. The latter arrangement is one of the least satisfying items on this disc.

The consort music is performed with recorders, a completely legitimate option, as a consort of recorders was quite common in England in the early 17th century. But I am not sure that it is justified to play these pieces with more than one instrument per part. In the songs for voice and consort - Coprario's Fortune and glory and the last item, the anonymous Farewell the bliss - the balance between the voice and the recorder consort is less than ideal.

I don't want to give the impression that this is a bad disc. That is certainly not the case, as the performances are generally rather good. But there are some things which make this disc less satisfying than it could have been. In addition to the things I already mentioned I refer to the recording technique. Especially when listening through headphones the amount of background noise is sometimes irritating. That is particularly the case in some of the lute pieces. When the sound of the lute is very soft or there is a short pause the noise almost disappears only to return when the lute plays again. As a result there is a constant ebb and flow in the noise (p.e. in Gypsies Lilt, track 8). I also think the reverberation at the end of every piece is unnaturally quickly cut off.

I also don't understand why only the first two lines of Can doleful notes? by Danyel are sung, whereas the booklet gives eight. And why are the texts pronounced in modern English? Aren't "love" and "move" (Coprario, Fortune and glory) supposed to rhyme?

In short, I am a bit in two minds about this disc. The pros are the choice of lesser-known or even unknown pieces and the general level of the performances. The cons are the sometimes unsatisfying arrangements, the lack of coherence and the lesser than ideal recording. It's up to you to decide whether the pros outweigh the cons.

Johan van Veen (© 2009)

Relevant links:

The Royal Wind Music

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