Henry VIII, Ghizeghem, Cornysh, Attaingnant & Anon

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Attaingnant & Anon,Cornysh,Ghizeghem,Henry VIII
LABELS: Chandos Chaconne
ALBUM TITLE: Pastyme with Good Companye
WORKS: Music at the Court of Henry VIII: works by Henry VIII, Ghizeghem, Cornysh, Attaingnant & Anon
PERFORMER: Ensemble Dreiklang Berlin; Michael Metzler (percussion)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 0709
This performance brilliantly recaptures the youthful passion of a remarkably musical monarch. The pleasure-mongering of the young Henry VIII was internationally renowned, and much of it devoted to music. Besides patronising respected musicians, Henry composed works – albeit contrapuntally straightforward – which give tantalising insight into the energy, lyricism and charisma of their author. The sophisticated musicality of this disc distinguishes it from earlier recordings of the same repertoire. Tunes frequently reduced to formulaic treatment, such as ‘Greensleeves’, regain their depth. The precocious improvisations and tight ensemble of the recorder trio Dreiklang allow the latent expressiveness of the simplest passages to emerge, while the breadth and speed of the trio’s emotional transitions leave one breathless. Added percussion is a vital element of each miniature portrait, rather than a distracting appendage. Whether driving tempi to fever pitch or mournfully repeating metric patterns, percussionist Michael Metzler enriches the meanings and the appeal of this music. The programme gracefully balances the king’s straightforward inventions with court composers’ finely wrought polyphony, in which richly resonant bottom instruments blossom. Sirinu, on an earlier Chandos release, produced a more traditional sung version of the same ‘Henry VIII manuscript’. Even with the help of lyrics, Sirinu’s unstable technique and one-style-fits-all musical approach compromised these works. The composer would surely have found Ensemble Dreiklang better company for his ‘pastyme’. Berta Joncus

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