Collection: The Sypres Curten of the Night

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COMPOSERS: Campion,Dowland,Holborne
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Elizabethan and Jacobean Lute-songs by Campion, Holborne, Dowland, .
PERFORMER: Michael Chance (countertenor), Christopher Wilson (lute)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 0538 DDD

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Thomas Campion’s evocative line ‘The Sypres Curten of the Night’ is an apt title for this collection: a sypres was black crêpe cloth used at funerals, and the mournful quality of Campion’s ayre reflects the nature of so much of this repertoire. The lute-song is one of the finer aspects of the English musical heritage, but the genre blossomed and withered within a remarkably short period, all the printed collections appearing between 1597 and 1622.

Several of the ayres included here may well be familiar to listeners – Campion’s ‘Never weather-beaten saile’ (better known in its adaptation as an anthem) and Dowland’s jewels, ‘I saw my Lady weepe’ and ‘Sorrow, stay’ – but for those seeking something more esoteric the collection has plenty to offer.

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The programme has been thoughtfully arranged, with lute solos by Anthony Holborne serving to lighten the mood between the song groups. Michael Chance, choosing modern, rather than 17th-century pronunciation, communicates the texts with sensitivity and understanding, and he has an ideal partner in Christopher Wilson. The recorded balance has been well judged, and each piece has a commendable sense of shape and direction. Kate Bolton