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LABELS: Musica Oscura
WORKS: Songs and Keyboard Works
PERFORMER: Emma Kirkby (soprano), Lars Ulrik Mortensen (harpsichord), Ursula Weiss, Iona Davies (violin), Martin Kelly (viola), Helen Gough (cello)
Maurice Greene was a gifted English contemporary of Handel. He is remembered above all, nowadays, for his generous legacy of anthems, certain of which are among the best loved in the Anglican church: ‘Lord, let me know mine end’ is one of them. But Greene experimented with secular vocal forms too and his dramatic pastoral Florimel certainly deserves to find its way into the record catalogue. Meanwhile, we may be grateful to the soprano Emma Kirkby and harpsichordist Lars Ulrik Mortensen for this captivating recital of songs, an ode with string accompaniment and harpsichord pieces in Anthony Rooley’s stimulating Musica Oscura series.


Listeners discovering Greene’s music for the first time will be struck by his melodic gifts and by his ability to enliven texts with vividly evocative music. In this respect his settings of ‘Orpheus with his lute’ and 25 of Spenser’s ‘Amoretti’ are especially alluring. Kirkby sings six of the ‘Amoretti’ with all her customary musical sensibility and thoughtful attention to textual detail. ‘Like as the Culver’, the 25th of Spenser’s sonnets, is a ravishing example of Greene’s talent as a songwriter, as indeed are several others here such as the virtuosic da capo aria ‘Nell’orror’. By comparison the little harpsichord pieces are slight, but they are shown off well in the context of a mixed recital and Mortensen plays them affectionately and with feeling for their expressive charm. Full texts and translations with an informative essay by H Diack Johnstone are provided. Nicholas Anderson