Flow My Tears

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COMPOSERS: Campion,Danyel,Dowland,Johnson,Muhly and Hume
LABELS: Wigmore Hall Live
ALBUM TITLE: Flow My Tears
WORKS: Works by Johnson, Dowland, Danyel, Campion, Muhly and Hume
PERFORMER: Iestyn Davies (countertenor), Thomas Dunford (lute), Jonathan Manson (viol)
CATALOGUE NO: WHLive 0074

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Themes of love and loss pervade this varied sequence of English lute songs both past and present. Theatre ditties by the Virgin Queen’s court lutenist Robert Johnson give way to funeral laments by his contemporary John Danyel epitomising the melancholy spirit of the age, while wistful love songs and lute solos by Dowland contrast with playful militaristic viol pieces by the quirky soldier-composer Tobias Hume. The centrepiece of the programme is a new Wigmore Hall commission: the premiere recording of American composer Nico Muhly’s Old Bones, a haunting and eloquent work, with faint echoes of Benjamin Britten, setting a montage of texts around the recent discovery of the skeleton of Richard III.

A product of the rigorous English choral tradition, countertenor Iestyn Davies is ideally suited to this repertoire, his voice ethereal, plangent and effortless, his diction and phrasing responsive to the subtlest poetic nuances. He is joined by lutenist Thomas Dunford, who plays these intricate pieces with enviable technique and style, and gambist Jonathan Manson, whose resonant sound adds an aptly dark tone. Recorded at a concert given in the felicitous acoustic of London’s Wigmore Hall, the sound is warm and spacious, though the lute is a shade distant in the recorded perspective. An evidently rapt audience is only audible in the appreciative applause. In short, a treasurable disc.

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Kate Bolton