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William CORKINE (fl 1610 - 1617): "Each lovely grace - The Second Booke of Ayres (1612)"

Cantar alla Viola

rec: June 6 - 9, 2011, Siurana, Iglesia Santa Maria
Nimbus Alliance - NI 6173 (© 2011) (66'45")
Liner-notes: E; lyrics - no translations
Cover & track-list

Almainec; As by a fountaine chast Diana sateab; Away, awayab; Beware faire Maidesab; Come live with me and be my lovec; 2 Corantosc; Downe, downe proud mindeab; Each lovely graceab; Fly swift my thoughtsab; Goe heavy thoughtsab; If my Complaintsc; Man like a Prophet of ensuing yeeresab; Mounsiers Almainec; My deerest Mistrisseab; Pavinc; 2 Preludesc; Shall a smileab; Shall I be with joyes deceived?ab; The Punckes delightc; T'is true, t'is dayab; Two Lovers sat lamentingab; Walsinghamc

Source: The Second Book of Ayres, some to Sing and Play to the Base-Violl alone: others to be Sung to the Lute and Base Violl, 1612

Nadine Balbeisi, sopranoa; Fernando Marín, division violb, lyra-violc

The solo song is one of the main genres in English music in the decades around 1600. Many collections of songs were printed, often with an accompaniment for the lute. This has resulted in the term lute song, but in reality there was a lot of variation in the genre of the secular song. Some composers offered alternative scorings: solo songs could also be performed with an ensemble of voices or with a solo voice and a consort of viols. The songs by John Dowland are an example of this practice. This disc turns our attention to a specific way of performing songs: a solo voice accompanied by a viola da gamba. William Corkine had published his Ayres, to Sing and Play to the Lute and Basse Violl in 1610. It was followed in 1612 by The Second Book of Ayres, some to Sing and Play to the Base-Violl alone: others to be Sung to the Lute and Base Violl.

Corkine is one of the lesser-known composers of the English renaissance about whom not that much is known. We don't know exactly when he was born and died nor do we know anything about his musical activities. There is some evidence that he once performed with John Dowland and in 1617 he received permission to work at the Polish court, as part of a group of musicians. But that is all.

His second book which is the subject of this disc, comprises 18 songs: 13 are for solo voice with nothing more than a bass line as accompaniment. The other five songs have additional vocal parts and a lute tablature. This recording includes the 13 solo songs. At the end of the collection come 12 Lyra Viol lessons. One of them is for two lyra-viols, the other 11 for a solo lyra-viol. These are all included in this recording.

The songs are remarkable in that they differ strongly from what we are used to hear. Most of them are less melodious than those by, for instance, Thomas Campion or even Dowland. Some of these are easy to memorise, and many music-lovers know quite a number of them by heart, at least the music. That is not so easy in the case of Corkine's songs. There are strong declamatory traits in many of them, and one is tempted to see some influences of the modern Italian monodic style. But as we know next to nothing about his musical activities or with whom he came into contact, that is impossible to prove. The close connection between text and music is quite striking, and so is the wide compass which the singer needs.

Nadine Balbeisi meets the requirements of these songs with impressive ease. She has a wide tessitura, and the upper notes are just as pure and strong as the lower notes. The strength and agility of her lower register are remarkable. That is especially important as in some songs Corkine uses low notes for expressive reasons, like "Maids in hell" in Away, away or "I dye" and "confusion" in Goe heavy thoughts. There are many other moments of eloquent text expression which are quite unusual for English music of this time. Ms Balbeisi explores them to the full, and her diction is immaculate.

What makes this disc even more interesting is the use of historical pronunciation. In the booklet we read: "In our interpretations, the pronunciation of a single word may vary from song to song in order to uphold the rhyme and meter of each poem. According to scholars, early English was more flexible in pronunciation, not to mention spelling, than modern English, and a single word could have several pronunciations. We feel that the simple, earthly quality of this pronunciation fits perfectly with the music, the instrument and strings". They are right: it is nice to hear poems where words which are supposed to rhyme, actually do so while being sung. Unfortunately most interpreters of the English renaissance song repertoire don't care about this. Therefore these artists' decision to observe what we know about the pronunciation around 1600 deserves praise.

Music for lyra-viol receives quite a lot of attention these days as the growing number of recordings show. This disc contains an interesting addition to what is already available. These are all nice pieces, some of which sound familiar, like Walsingham or If my Complaints, which seems to be an arrangement of Dowland's song If my complaints could passions move from his first book of songs (1597). Fernando Marín's playing is technically assured and his interpretations are imaginative, both in the solo pieces and in the accompaniments where he uses a division viol. "Both instruments have been constructed according to early techniques of viol building and both are strung with natural ram gut". This is all based, as the liner-notes assure us, on "Renaissance treatises" and "iconographic observations". This seems all very time- and energy-consuming, but I am sure it is in the interest of the music.

These arists have taken things very seriously. It means that they take the composer and his music seriously. They deserve accolades for that.

Johan van Veen (© 2012)

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