Collection: Shakespearian Songbook

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Anon.,Byrd,Dowland,Edwards,Ford,Johnson,Jones,Linley,Morley,Wilson
LABELS: Carlton Musick’s Monument
WORKS: Songs by Johnson, Edwards, Wilson, Jones, Byrd, Linley, Dowland, Ford, Morley &Anon.
PERFORMER: James Griffett (tenor), Brian Wright (lute)
CATALOGUE NO: 30365 00022

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The sound of choirboys singing laments and death songs had enormous appeal to our Elizabethan and Jacobean ancestors – the childish expression of adult emotion apparently sharpening the music’s poignancy. How apt, then, to hear the young Connor Burrowes perform this repertoire, and with such affecting candour and musical maturity. He’s accompanied not by a viol consort – as would have been more common – but recorders, whose inherently vocal quality weaves a light tapestry of sound.

They’re particularly effective in the group of pastoral pieces, played here with charming grace and agility. The disc includes several works by Thomas Simpson, who also features on the enterprising collection ‘Mascharada’ – early 17th-century music by English and German composers employed at the Bückeburg Court. Alongside masque music and dances to set your feet tapping are more dolorous numbers.

The King’s Noyse plays this attractive, if rather limited, repertoire with an easy freedom, though the airless recording gives their Renaissance violins a slightly grainy edge. Recorded sound is also disappointing on both the discs of English lute songs included in this batch.

The close perspective on Griffett and Wright’s ‘Shakespearian Songbook’ is unflatteringly critical, magnifying any slips and problems with ensemble. Griffett’s full-bodied voice is ill-suited to this genre, and the lute could do with a good tune. At the opposite extreme, Scholl and Martin have been recorded in a church-like acoustic, befitting neither the ayres nor the folk songs, and obscuring the detail in the lute part.

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A pity, because these are performances of the highest quality: Scholl is unquestionably one of the finest countertenors around, and he performs this enticing programme with effortless artistry.