My Lady Rich

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Byrd,Dowland,ones,Tessier
LABELS: Avie
WORKS: Songs by Jones, Dowland, Byrd, Tessier
PERFORMER: Bartlet, Holborne, Coprario & AnonEmily Van Evera (soprano, recorder), Caroline Trevor, John Potter, Daniel Norman, Michael Dore (voice), Christopher Morrongiello (lute), Susanna Pell, Susanne Heinrich, Richard Campbell, Reiko Ischise, Asako Morikawa (v
CATALOGUE NO: AV 0045

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The musicianship, beauty and tragic fate of Penelope Rich (1563-1607) inspired reflections on her person by the era’s most celebrated composers. Although extravagantly fêted, Lady Rich suffered from an unwanted marriage for her father’s financial gain. The treason of her brother, the Earl of Essex, smashed the happiness she later found in the love of Lord Mountjoy by provoking her own banishment from court and the despatch of Mountjoy to Ireland; public malice broke his health even after they were reunited.

These events, together with Lady Rich’s powers as singer, lutenist and linguist, are reflected in music dedicated to her and in related works. Since 1991, Christopher Morrongiello has been piecing together this legacy, and here he and Emily van Evera re-imagine the fate of Lady Rich through the musical repertoire that grew up around her. In laments, van Evera’s dynamic contrasts are riveting, as are the purity and power of her voice.

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The all-star cast of singers and instrumentalists with whom she performs respond to her dramatization, enhance the nuances of her splendid lyrics, and also appear as soloists elsewhere in the disc’s complex programme. The viols especially intensify the atmosphere of mournfulness thanks to the sensitivity of their phrasing. The sound reproduction is crystalline. Lady Rich was once called ‘heart-stealing’; this recording is as well. Berta Joncus