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"As our sweet Cords with Discords mixed be - English Renaissance Consort Music"


rec: Sept 27 - 29, 2014, Edinburgh, The Robin Chapel
Resonus Classics - RES10155 ( 2015) (67'15")
Liner-notes: E
Cover, track-list & booklet

Jerome BASSANO (1559-1736): Fantasia I; Fantasia III; Galliard; Edward BLANKES (1582-1633): A Phancy; William BRADE (1560-1623): Coranta; Coranto; Coranto; William BYRD (c1540-1623): In nomine IV; The leaves be green; Giovanni COPERARIO (c1570-1626): Fantasia; John DOWLAND (1563-1623): Captain Digorie Piper's Galliard; Mr George Whitehead's Almain; Mrs Nichols' Almain; The Earl of Essex's Galliard; John EGLESTONE (?-?): In nomine II; Alfonso FERRABOSCO I (1543-1588): In nomine I; In nomine II; Alfonso FERRABOSCO II (1575-1628): Dovehouse Pavan; Pavan V; Edward GIBBONS (1568-c1650): In nomine; Anthony HOLBORNE (c1545-1602): Heigh ho holiday; The Fairie-round; The Funerals; The night watch; Osbert PARSLEY (1511-1585): In nomine; Parsley's Clocke; Robert PARSONS (c1535-1572): In nomine III; Christopher TYE (c1505-1572): In nomine 'Crye'; In nomine 'Farewell good one for ever'; In nomine 'Howld fast'; In nomine 'Re la re'; In nomine 'Saye so'; In nomine 'Seldome sene'; John WARD (1571-1638): Fantasia III

Emily Bloom, Kathryn Corrigan, Oonagh Lee, Gail Macleod, Roselyn Maynard, recorder

It is remarkable how many discs of consort music have been released recently. Only a few months ago I reviewed here a disc setting out the largest part of Christopher Tye's consort music, played by The Spirit of Gambo and the recording 'Cynthia's Revels' by The Flautadors Recorder Quartet. In large part the latter comprises the same kind of repertoire which is also played on the present disc by the Consortium5. That is understandable: consort music was played across Europe, but flowered especially in England. This repertoire is particularly well suited to a recorder consort, considering the great popularity of the recorder in England.

In the light of the disc of Tye consort music I found it interesting to hear some of his In nomines here. The Spirit of Gambo plays them on viols, but this disc shows that they can be perfectly well played by a recorder consort. According to New Grove over 150 settings of the In nomine have survived, written by around 58 composers from Taverner to Purcell. That makes it understandable that In nomines take a central place in the programme. Despite being based on the same cantus firmus, a phrase from John Taverner's Missa Gloria tibi trinitas, they are quite different in character. The In Nomine II by Alfonso Ferrabosco I is very lively and energetic, whereas the settings by Osbert Parsley and John Eglestone have a rather solemn character.

The latter composer is one of the little known figures represented here. He has no entry in New Grove and the booklet gives us no information about his identity. Edward Blankes is another unknown quantity: he was a wait - waits was the name of a group of musicians employed by town councils across England. About ten consort pieces from his pen have survived, some of them incomplete. Osbert Parsley doesn't appear often in programmes of renaissance music, whether vocal or instrumental. He was active as a singer and a number of sacred pieces on Latin and English texts from his pen have survived, reflecting the religious upheavals of the time. Five In Nomines have been preserved, albeit two of them are incomplete.

The inclusion of several pieces by Jerome Bassano is also interesting. He was a descendant of the Bassanos who settled in England under Henry VIII and were largely responsible for the introduction of consort music in England. They were mainly active as wind players and instrument makers. Ever since Henry VIII members of the Bassano family had been at the service of the court. Jerome joined the recorder consort at the court in 1579, at the age of 20, and held his position until at least 1630. He also played the viol. His two fantasias recorded here include some quirky harmonic progressions. The same goes for the Fantasia by Giovanni Coprario, not of Italian descent, but an English composer who italianised his name (John Cooper or Cowper).

The In nomine and the fantasia are two of the genres represented here. The third comprises dance music: the programme opens with a Galliard by Jerome Bassano and closes with a Coranta by William Brade. The latter emigrated from England and settled in northern Germany where he published several collections of consort music which had a considerable influence on German composers, such as Johann Hermann Schein. Most of the dances played here are taken from the collection which Anthony Holborne published in 1599. This was the first printed edition of instrumental music in England. As Peter Holman states in his liner-notes this is no "functional dance music" but chamber music. It seems likely that the very fact that such music was printed reflects the growing popularity of consort music among the higher echelons of society. Earlier consort music was almost exclusively performed at the court, but towards the end of the 16th century it was disseminated across society and became increasingly popular among non-professional players.

This disc is my first acquaintance with Consortium5, and it is a most pleasant one. They have put together an interesting programme of familiar and less familiar pieces, some by composers who are hardly known. Even those who have various discs of consort music in their collection will probably find something here which they didn't know. The way the pieces are ordered guarantees much variety. I am impressed by the way this repertoire is played. The members of the ensemble produce a beautiful tone which is not only due to their excellent playing but also the fact that the instruments are from the same builder. This results in an optimum blending of the recorders which is essential in this repertoire. The lively pieces are given sparkling performances, but there is also an almost organ-like solemnity in the more introverted items.

Consortium5 is definitely an ensemble to keep an eye on.

Johan van Veen ( 2015)

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