WORKS: Lute Songs
PERFORMER: Michael Sanderson (tenor), Robin Thodey (lute)
CATALOGUE NO: CD 6 (distr. Discovery)
Michael Sanderson’s slightly husky, intimate, modest tenor is well suited to the lute song, and this recording of 23 prime examples, all but six by that melancholy master of the genre, John Dowland (two are by Campion, four by John Danyel), captures the kind of atmosphere one can imagine having been commonplace in early performances of this music four centuries ago. Given such ambience, Sanderson has no need to make any special effort to project, and so these are singularly unaffected readings. Nevertheless a little more variety of colour and mood would not have gone amiss. One contrast we do get is in recording levels. Try listening to tracks 3, 4 and 5 in succession. The effect is really quite disturbing. The lutenist Robin Thodey is a subtle, eloquent partner.
Robin Blaze’s recital on the other hand can be recommended without reservation. The variety of songs is greater. There’s a lot of Purcell here, for instance, including the wonderful ‘By beauteous softness’, from Queen Mary’s Birthday Ode of 1689, which, given this performance, I could quite easily listen to for ever. And room is found for a number of solos from Elizabeth Kenny, the polished lutenist. There’s a remarkable technical ease and innate literary intelligence about Blaze’s singing which together with the astounding beauty of his voice makes this one of the most outstanding recitals of its kind on disc. Stephen Pettitt