WORKS: Early American Music 1776-1861
PERFORMER: Anne Azéma, Margaret Swanson (soprano), Elizabeth Anker (contralto), Timothy Leigh Evans (tenor), Donald Wilkinson (baritone), Joel Frederiksen (bass); Members of Harvard University Choir, Boston Camerata/Joel Cohen
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-21668-2
The Boston Camerata is one of the many jewels in Erato’s crown. Under Joel Cohen’s direction, this exquisite vocal group of half a dozen voices, plus equally refined instrumental ensemble, invariably serves up beautifully judged performances. The Camerata’s research into the musical literature of the fledgling American Republic, rooted in the diverse European cultures of its founding fathers, has made a valued contribution not just to our musical knowledge, but also to the re-popularising of some lovely forgotten melodies. Here is a clutch of them – the spirited, the bawdy, the patriotic, touching songs of solace or nostalgia.
There are surprises: a lightly string-accompanied setting of ‘God Save the King’ proves a French Revolution-inspired feminists’ charter. William Billings, Jeremiah Ingalls, Moses Kimball – these early collectors gave fresh life to tunes which sometimes reached back centuries. An eerie ballad (‘Mary’s Dream’), a gentle Irish Air on solo flute, soprano Anne Azéma leading a female trio in ‘The Blue Bells of Scotland’, a young boy’s voice with guitar (‘The Working Boy’ – precisely the stuff of Britten’s operetta Paul Bunyan) all seem as good a way as any to savour the Boston Camerata sound. The Erato booklet notes are excellent, but weakly printed. Roderic Dunnett