Holborne, Gibbons, Byrd, Farnaby, Bull, Peerson

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bull,Byrd,Farnaby,Gibbons,Holborne,Peerson
LABELS: Chandos Chaconne
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Elizabethan Virginals Music
WORKS: Works by Holborne, Gibbons, Byrd, Farnaby, Bull, Peerson,
PERFORMER: Sophie Yates (virginal)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 0699
I can’t recall a more attractive virginal programme than this: largely familiar music, from the positively frisky to the deeply sombre, played on two markedly contrasting versions of a beautiful Italian pentagonal virginal. David Evans copied the original instrument (on display in the V&A in London), and created a bright, taut sonority which Yates aptly uses for six of the tracks, including Byrd’s ebullient Earl of Oxford’s March. Alan Gotto has reconstructed its possible earlier specification – warmer, plummier, adding pathos to a wonderfully reflective Chromatic Pavan by Bull, with its associated Galliard sloughing off despair in a bright, major-key ending. It is versatile enough for chirpy trifles, too – Farnaby’s Tower Hill and the charmingly predictable Pakington’s Pownde.

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Sophie Yates plays with exceptional poise – ornaments are impeccably measured and fast figurations are technically flawless – yet such polish doesn’t mask expressiveness. She draws out every emotional nuance, nowhere more than in Gibbons’s Lord of Salisbury Pavan, its stinging dissonances heightened by an (unidentified) unequal tuning, the final whirlpool of sequences drawing the music inescapably down through a whole octave.

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Special mention for Gary Cole, whose engineering has captured the character of each instrument with great presence and minimal mechanical clatter.