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)


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.


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