LABELS: Chandos Chaconne
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Elisa Is the Fayrest Quene
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 0686
No music written specifically for wind instruments has come down to us from the Elizabethan age, the notes here tell us frankly. But accounts of wind-playing in royal circles are plentiful enough to suggest that their use in this repertoire is justified, and when the fashion in our day is to use strings plucked and bowed this disc comes as welcome refreshment, especially given the fine cornett-playing of Richard Thomas and Rachel Brown. Even they, however, can’t fully disguise the awkwardness of a Robert Parsons In nomine – part of a rich and refined polyphonic composing tradition – in their medium. A Fantasia by John Coprario, or a splendid trio of pieces by Antony Holborne (complete with percussion) work far better. Suites of five Galliards and five Almands, by French as well as English composers, top and tail the recital, while space is also found for a lute solo eloquently played by Elizabeth Pallett (Francis Cutting’s Divisions on ‘Walsingham’) and for a couple of John Bull’s harpsichord pieces, given by Kathryn Cok.
A group of three singers – the countertenors Stephen Wallace and Timothy Massa and the tenor Julian Podger – contribute in songs by Edward Johnson (inevitably ‘Elisa is the fayrest Quene’) and John Dowland and in a John Wilbye madrigal. The countertenors rather spoil things, however, with Wallace in particular affecting a vibrato-rich 19th-century operatic style that in this music sounds just plain weird. Stephen Pettitt