Lawes, Blow, Wilson, Campion, Eccles, Lanier, Ferrabosco, Weldon, Boyce & Greene

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COMPOSERS: Blow,Boyce & Greene,Campion,Eccles,Ferrabosco,Lanier,Lawes,Weldon,Wilson
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Classical Kirkby Ð Orpheus and Corinna
WORKS: Sappho to the Goddess of Love; When Orpheus went down…
PERFORMER: Emma Kirkby (soprano), Anthony Rooley (theorbo, lute)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1435
Emma Kirkby is a Classicist, stylistically and academically. Invited to be president of the Classical Association, an international organisation devoted to the study of ancient Greece and Rome, Kirkby (who read Classics at Oxford), was faced with giving an inaugural lecture. She asked if she might sing instead. This is the recital she and Anthony Rooley, an eminent editor and arranger as well as virtuoso lutenist, gave, the fruit of tireless research in the British Library into obscure, mostly 17th-century English settings of Classical texts.

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Even at 53, Kirkby’s soprano is steadfast, shining and pure, a quintessential early-music voice of bright and brilliant clarity. Her exemplary diction is always intelligible and precise: listen to the way she negotiates the tongue-twisting, ringingly ornamented lines in John Blow’s enchanting cantata ‘Sappho to the Goddess of Love’. She is unfazed by dead languages, singing two settings by Henry Lawes of poems by Anacreon in ancient Greek, and two by John Wilson of Horatian odes in Latin. And her narrative and dramatic skills are as compelling as her wit, never more evident than in William Boyce’s pair of comic, vulgar songs ‘When Orpheus went down…’ and its feisty response, ‘the words by a lady’, which turns the conventional reading of the myth on its head. Claire Wrathall