An English Fancy

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Baltzar,Byrd,Hume,Lawes,Locke,Purcell,Simpson
LABELS: Cedille
ALBUM TITLE: An English Fancy
PERFORMER: Trio Settecento
CATALOGUE NO: CDR90000135

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Only the country that gave the world William Blake, Lewis Carroll and Monty Python could have poured its best efforts into such a strange genre as the fantasy, say the liner notes to this excellent CD. It explores around 50 years of fantastical English Fantasias, beginning with William Lawes in the mid-17th century and ending with Henry Purcell, as well as music in other genres. There are stately Pavanes, high-stepping Jiggs and Corantos, and those typically English variation sets that spin ever faster ribbons of notes over simple foundations. And there are some absorbing rarities, such as Tobias Hume’s mysterious and deep Captain Hume’s Lamentation.

The performers have gone to great lengths to achieve an authentic sound. Rachel Barton Pine plays a late-Renaissance era fiddle rather than a Baroque violin, and harpsichordist David Schrader plays in mean-tone tuning in Purcell’s overture from Bonduca, which produces harmonies of unearthly strangeness. But what really seizes the ear is the unfailing grace, energy and expressivity of the three players. The music may be extravagant but the performances are well-balanced. When sections of a dance repeat, the performers add ornamentation in a way which seems both tactful and spontaneous.

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Ivan Hewett