Collection: Hark! Hark! the Lark

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Assorted
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Works by John Atkins, Simon Ives, Robert Johnson, William Lawes, Johann Schop, Thomas Simpson, Robert Taylor, John Wilson,
PERFORMER: Catherine Bott, Julia Gooding (soprano), Joseph Cornwell (tenor), Stephen Varcoe (baritone); The Parley of Instruments/Peter Holman
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66836

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If the opening of the new Globe Theatre in London has whetted your appetite for Shakespearian theatre music, this excellent CD offers a chance to delve into the music a little further, from the early years of Jacobean drama to the onset of the English Civil War (ie 1609-42). The disc opens with Robert Johnson’s celebrated settings for Shakespeare’s last plays, notably Ariel’s ‘Where the bee sucks’ and ‘Full fathom five’, both exquisitely sung by Julia Gooding.

There are less well-known gems too, such as Johnson’s sinister ‘Care-charming sleep’ and Anon’s ‘See the chariot at hand’, both beautifully ornamented by, respectively, Catherine Bott and Joseph Cornwell. The other composers featured rarely attain Johnson’s inspired heights, yet the material is lively and varied throughout. There are songs for madmen, ghosts and witches, and a charming elegy for a pet sparrow, tenderly sung by Stephen Varcoe.

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Indeed, performances are uniformly superb and often enhanced by imaginative or comic touches – I especially liked the deranged miaows on Lawes’s ‘The cats, as other creatures do’. Full marks to Peter Holman and team for this delightful entertainment. Graham Lock