LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: The Dark Is My Delight
WORKS: Songs by Dowland, Campion,
PERFORMER: Brian Asawa (countertenor)David Tayler (flute)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68818 2
Brian Asawa has a fine countertenor voice, an effortless range, immaculate intonation, apt for the triumphs and despair of male lovers, yet with sufficient contralto depth to encompass female sighs and fantasies. His programme is in three distinct sections – eleven Dowland songs, five by Campion, and some popular theatre songs.
He fares best in this final group, though without Deller’s unforgettable vocal colouring of ‘The Three Ravens’, while ‘The Dark Is My Delight’ lacks the breathtaking sensuousness of Evelyn Tubb who adopted this courtesan’s song as the title of a stunning 1993 recording (Musica Oscura). Poignant, though, is Anne Boleyn’s plaint, ‘O Death, rock me asleep’, its haunting bell tolling dissonantly against the lute’s relentless ostinato.
Asawa suits the scale of a theatre – and he is recorded spaciously, somewhat behind Tayler’s sensitive accompaniment. The courtly love songs lack intimacy and expressive passion. The maiden’s taunting laugh of rejection is half-hearted in Dowland’s ‘Come again’; the heart is torn rather than broken in ‘I Saw My Lady Weep’; compared with Catherine Bott’s aviary (Linn), Asawa’s nightingale, sparrow, robin and lark are muted in ‘This Merry Pleasant Spring’. Enjoyable nonetheless for a remarkable voice and some lovely lute-playing. George Pratt