Ward: The Fanshawe Circle: Psalms and Anthems

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Musica Oscura
WORKS: The Fanshawe Circle: Psalms and Anthems
PERFORMER: Consort of Musicke/Anthony Rooley
‘The Monteverdi Circle’, an ongoing series to which these first two discs contribute, does not question the composer’s stature, but reveals contemporaries no less great. D’India admitted delighting in ‘unusual intervals, moving with the greatest possible novelty from one chord to another…’, dramatically demonstrated in Crud’ Amarilli, dissonance resolving to dissonance with intensity beating even Monteverdi’s famously lawless setting. It momentarily beats the Consort too. Elsewhere, they are admirably anchored.


Notari lived in London, though not before he had absorbed Monteverdi’s new instrumentally accompanied madrigal style. This 1613 collection of exquisite solo and duet settings calls for some extraordinary agility – and a staggering falsetto excursion by David Thomas. He is also a vicious, sneering Lucifer in Stradella’s Souls in Purgatory, retrieved from the archives of West German Radio. Powerfully dramatic, it has moments of deep poignancy.

John Ward too created some striking mannerist colours in anthems and madrigals. The six-part fantasias, lacking words to spur the imagination, are harmonically rather predictable and less interesting.


In a recent radio interview, Rooley explained that in performance, his artists direct themselves. The singing here reflects this, committed and individual, yet unselfishly integrated throughout. All five discs expand our horizons; Notari and Stradella deserve our ‘outstanding’ symbol.