Morley, Weelkes, Wilbye, East, Tomkins, Gibbons, Byrd, etc

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COMPOSERS: Byrd,East,etc,Gibbons,Morley,Tomkins,Weelkes,Wilbye
LABELS: Chandos Chaconne
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: The Triumphs of Oriana
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: I Fagiolini; David Miller (lute)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 0682
This collection of 25 madrigals, each of which ends with the refrain ‘Long live fair Oriana’, is usually described as a tribute to Queen Elizabeth I, though scholars have known for at least 40 years that it is more likely to have been directly associated with a certain courtier known as ‘bonny-boots’ who died in 1597. The full collection has not been recorded for nearly a quarter of a century now, and this version is very welcome for that reason alone, though it also contains a series of lute pieces adroitly and charmingly rendered by David Miller.

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Perhaps, though, I Fagiolini is not quite the right group to have performed these rather delicate madrigals. It is true that the singers adopt a pleasingly brisk pace, but the metrical changes between duple and triple sections (as in Cavendish’s ‘Come gentle swains’) are not managed well, there is little contrast of vocal colour and the sense of tuning is not fully professional. Even so, their famous humour surfaces in their wonderfully exaggerated impression of chirping birds in Morley’s ‘Hard by a crystal fountain’, and they give a nicely dramatic account of one of the more interesting pieces – Johnson’s ‘Come blessed bird’. Anthony Pryer