COMPOSERS: Britten,Cornyshe,Elgar,Gibbons,Henry VIII
ALBUM TITLE: Royal Rhymes and Rounds
PERFORMER: The King’s Singers
CATALOGUE NO: SIGCD307
Music for and by kings and queens: that’s the focus of this new King’s Singers Diamond Jubilee-inspired collection. King Henry VIII is the first regent featured, his own Pastime with good companie kicking off the recital. The anonymous Hey, trolly lolly lo! is positively lubricious, a saucy rugby song avant la lettre. Is it a little primly delivered by the King’s Singers? Possibly. But the sound this ensemble makes is beautifully balanced, and you could take dictation from their impeccable enunciation. These are considerable benefits.
Queen Elizabeth I’s reign yields more serious content, in the shape of John Bennet’s Dowland tribute Weep, O mine eyes, whose melancholy and desire for oblivion are sweetly rendered in the King’s Singers’ performance. Of the three pieces adulating Queen Victoria, Elgar’s 1899 part-song To her beneath whose steadfast star is the most interesting. It forms part of a collection featuring 13 composers, and Elgar conducted it himself at the queen’s 80th birthday breakfast.
A fresh-toned, lively account of the ‘Choral Dances’ from Britten’s 1953 opera Gloriana marks the reign of the current monarch. A new commission, Paul Drayton’s A Rough Guide to the Royal Succession (It’s just one damn King after another…) concludes the programme. It’s droll, but at 12-plus minutes perhaps better experienced live than on record.
Overall, this disc from the King’s Singers is a notably intelligent, enjoyable Jubilee offering.