Collection: Sad Steps Ð New Settings of Renaissance Poems

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Ager,Bruno,Chenette,Fitch,Greig,Heringman,Johanson,Keeling,Liddle,Marks,Stoll
LABELS: Riverrun
WORKS: Works by Keeling, Bruno, Greig, Liddle, Stoll, Heringman, Ager, Marks, Fitch, Chenette, Johanson


The danger with writing new music for old instruments is that it can sound like pastiche, or, even worse, the sort of incidental music you find in costume dramas – unintentionally comic men in tights. Luckily, the composers commissioned by Virelai almost entirely avoid these traps. True, Andrew Keeling’s two songs start off very much in a Tudor vein, but they become richer and more harmonically interesting as they go along, and both David Stoll and Elizabeth Liddle use characteristic Renaissance rhythms and melodic turns and give them new tonal twists.


Malcolm Bruno and Alastair Greig take a more ‘modern’ path, with leaping vocal lines in an atonal context, but the sounds of flute, viol and lute, together with the purity of Catherine King’s voice, carry the feeling of the old within a contemporary context. Cutting the traces more completely, Fabrice Fitch’s Rabelais setting has a spoken text against a fragmented accompaniment, which could just as well be scored for modern flute, cello and guitar. It’s also a contrast in pace, as it contains about the only fast music on the CD. Having commissioned the music, Virelai gives quietly intense performances, though I wish that the voices weren’t quite so resonantly recorded. Martin Cotton