Gibbons: Keyboard Music

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LABELS: ASV Gaudeamus
WORKS: Keyboard Music
PERFORMER: James Johnstone (harpsichord, virginals)
The early keyboard repertory is more often than not the territory of the anthology, so it is refreshing here to have the portrait of a single composer. A selection of pavans, galliards and fantasias forms the backbone of the programme, interspersed with one or two other occasional pieces. Of the four pavans presented, the second (track ten on the disc) eloquently sums up Gibbons’ expressive achievement, and matches Thomas Morley’s description of the Pavan as ‘a kind of staide musicke, ordained for grave dauncing’. At the other end of the stylistic spectrum is the popular tune ‘Whoop, do me no harm good man’, one of the many ballads peddled by the rogue Autolycus in ‘The Winter’s Tale’. One cannot help feeling that Gibbons’ heart lay in the searching, improvisatory genres, however, and it is these that leave a lasting impression. James Johnstone has captured to perfection the private, interior musings that characterize Gibbons’ fantasias and pavans. A couple of pieces have required reconstruction, their printed form being incomplete as it stands. Johnstone accomplishes this stylishly. The use of the hollower-sounding virginals for several pieces is a welcome contrast. William Whitehead