The Image of Melancholy

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Balke,Biber,Buxtehude,Byrd,Dowland,Eike,Holborne,Valent
ALBUM TITLE: The Image of Melancholy
WORKS: Works and arrangements by Holborne, Eike, Valent, Dowland, Biber, Buxtehude, Balke and Byrd
PERFORMER: Berit Norbakken Solset (soprano), Jon Balke (organ/soundscapes); Barockksolistene/Bjarte Eike


The theme of melancholia has inspired artists from Albrecht Dürer to BB King, and this programme testifies to its enduring power with an eclectic musical patchwork in various shades of blue. Elizabethan songs and consorts by arch-sourpuss John Dowland and his contemporary Anthony Holborne – equally prone to sullen naval-gazing – are interlaced with arrangements of traditional Scandinavian and Slavic tunes, plaintive laments, and introspective instrumental and vocal works by Biber, Byrd and Buxtehude. Such apparently disparate pieces segue surprisingly well thanks to their emotional affinity.

The spotlight falls on violinist Bjarte Eike, whose effortless technique allows him to slip easily from improvisatory style to folk and art music. He’s joined by dewy-voiced soprano Berit Norbakken Solset, and jazzer Jon Balke, whose atmospheric ‘soundscapes’ have a whiff of New Age mood-music about them. Extempore playing creates the air of a late-night jamming session, all sultry voices and moody strings, and a few rough edges add to the sense of spontaneity. The results will appeal to anyone keen on folk and fusion or those looking for an alternative approach to early music.

The lush, up-front recording, with its potential for 5.0 surround sound, means one can positively wallow in exquisite misery.


Kate Bolton