WORKS: Music by Byrd, Morley, Jenkins, Maynard, Lupo
PERFORMER: Catherine Bott (soprano), Michael George (baritone)New London Consort/Philip Pickett
CATALOGUE NO: CKD 011 DDD
In early 17th-century English music, the details of the forces required were often vague: ‘for one Voyce alone, or to the Lute, the Basse Viole or both if you please’, as one preface put it.
The result has often been merely pretty performances of songs, ballets and ‘Fa-la’s. This delightful disc demonstrates how Pickett’s imagination and scholarship transform and refresh often familiar music. I’ve never enjoyed more ‘Now is the Month of Maying’, first on a consort of violin, recorder, plucked strings and viol, then with soprano and bass voices creating a wonderfully transparent ensemble.
Catherine Bott and Michael George, while full of character, are beautifully focused and vibrato-free. Their tuning is spine-tingling, their words impeccable – put aside the booklet, sit back and enjoy a catalogue of bird songs, two Dialogues between Nymphs and Shepherds, and a very naughty song about Mother Watkins’s Ale. Pickett takes a bold approach to ‘divisions’, decorating music which looks rather bleak on paper.
The ornamentation here was improvised in the recording sessions, creating a sparkling sense of spontaneity. The dance is never far away either, with springy rhythms and shapely phrasing. This is an exceptional recording, not to be missed. George Pratt