LABELS: ASV Gaudeamus
WORKS: Choral Music
PERFORMER: Magnificat Choir & Players/Philip Cave
CATALOGUE NO: CD GAU 138 DDD
This is a discovery from the early 17th century. Even then Robert Ramsey was not exactly a name to conjure with, but the man did have a few bits of magic up his sleeve. Take, for example, the sensuous, sorrowful, unsettling harmonies of his ‘In Monte Oliveti’, or the mesmerising, disembodied single voices that open his ‘Sleep, fleshly birth’ – both sung here with pleasing, if slightly quavery, control. Then we have the short but very unsweet ‘Go perjur’d man!’, served up with a slapping sense of drama by Katy Tansey, though with less evenness of tuning than on the OUP recording of this piece in the Seventies directed by Philip Ledger.
Most of this music has never been recorded before. The big choral pieces – Te Deum and Jubilate – put one in mind of Monteverdi, and ‘In guilty night’ prefigures Purcell’s setting of some fifty years later. This is a disc that must be heard, though the organ is sometimes made to sound like a kazoo, and the large choir tends to compensate for its hesitations by squeezing significance into the last chord of a phrase. Luckily, the musical trickery on some tracks is outweighed by the musical magic on others. Anthony Pryer