Crye - English Viol Music
When devoting this CD to seventeenth-century English melancholic music, Concordia were right to foresee the need to offer some sort of relief for their audience. They chose verse and pictures. Not so very novel, you may think, but Concordia didn’t go for seventeenth-century English verse and art, or even uniformly modern works in tune with the performances. Glyn Maxwell’s undated, nine-part, narrative poem, published in its own accompanying booklet, was inspired by seventeenth-century consort music, but the choice of Kathe Kollwitz’s woodcuts defeats me. (This multi-media collage was first realized in May 1997 at a performance in the Purcell Room, which I didn’t have the opportunity to attend; perhaps if I had I might have made more sense of it here.)
But to the performances themselves. The best works are required to serve as the frame for this depiction of melancholy: Holborne’s Pavana Ploravit emulating Dowland’s supreme evocation, and William Lawes’s deeply compelling and expressive Consort Sett in C minor. On the surface, the performances teem with spirit and commitment, but at a deeper, technical level they suffer from a misunderstanding of phrasing, expressed here in bowing and good old-fashioned cliche. First, the phrasing: all too often the viol players release the tension in the phrase in advance of the harmonic release intended by the composer (this is also particularly evident in Captain Hume’s “I am melancholy”). Secondly, the cliche. Concordia’s basic bow stroke is softly articulated, with a delayed swell, leaving this listener longing for more varied articulation.
However, in this context, it would be unfair not to draw attention to their fine performances of Tye’s hysterical, eponymous Crye with its insistent repeated-note motif, intensified by imitation and counterpoint, and Hume’s Lamentations, dominated by the lyrical, chordal bass viol (I would have liked to have heard, perhaps, more of the treble viol). However, many of the selections on this CD will be deemed collector’s items, most especially, an awkwardly performed arrangement of Dowland for plucked solo viol by Richard Sumarte, an exceedingly long stretch of Tallis (the Felix namque), performed here by Gary Cooper, and the unknown Henry Stonings’s unexceptional Miserere. It may have been ill-advised to gather together works which would normally be most effective when contrasted with pieces in other ‘humours’. An interesting experiment, nevertheless.'