ALBUM TITLE: Collection: English Renaissance Ballad Tunes
WORKS: Works by Dowland, Holborne, Byrd, Johnson, Danyel, Batchelor,
PERFORMER: Nigel North (lute)
CATALOGUE NO: CKD 176
Popular ballad tunes were a rich source of inspiration for Elizabethan and Jacobean musicians and were used as the basis for countless sets of variations by the finest composers of the day, including Dowland, Byrd and John Johnson, in whose hands the melding of simplicity and artifice could produce some beguiling results. This selection includes tunes which are still familiar favourites, like ‘Greensleeves’ and ‘Go from my window’, along with once-popular numbers that have been long forgotten. It is interesting to compare variation sets on the same tune by different composers, which Nigel North has grouped in pairs on this recording.
North is now something of an éminence grise of the lute, and his expertise in early music as well as his evident affinity with jazz and rock makes him an ideal exponent of this repertoire. He negotiates even the most intricate of these pieces with disarming ease and plays with a winning combination of freedom and rigour. The recorded sound is excellent – detailed yet with a resonant bloom. My only caveat is that after an entire disc of such pieces, one longs to hear something of greater musical substance and complexity. Kate Bolton