The Sypres Curten of the Night – Elizabethan Lute Songs
So many beautiful lute songs from the Elizabeth and Jacobean cusp were written by fine composers other than Dowland that a release as balanced and broadly representative as this is to be warmly welcomed. Too often assortments by the likes of Rosseter, Ford, Campion and Danyel are either lost without trace in expanding catalogues or prime targets for early deletion (will we ever see again those pioneering Florilegium discs of Danyel and Maynard?). Anyway, we can be certain that the ripely coloured and flexible voice of Michael Chance is just what this repertoire needs to become better known. After three Campion songs one wishes that the disc could explore more of the better examples from this composer's oeuvre. Chance has the full technical measure of the elusively demanding Author of light (the text is inaccurate here and could have done with a check against Fellowes' English Madrigal Verse) and captures most skilfully the oppressive gloom of The sypres curten of the night; how tangible and sinister Campion's setting appears as the funeral cloth gradually suffocates the hapless soul. Only John Elwes in a similar, if less substantial collection, gives as much natural feeling to the texts as Chance.
Elwes also includes some Rosseter in his recital and judging by the five songs in both discs one realizes how artful his lighter-veined approach is. Danyel is of course a master songster in the premier league and Chance responds with an intensity in Griefe keepe within where the composer's taut complaint is wrenched back from the brink without compromising melancholy as artifice. Emotional overbearance is never a consideration here, despite a closely recorded sound, since Chance has—particularly in the four Dowland songs—a remarkably sensitive understanding of the elements in the music which need to be manipulated at any one time (e.g. the subtle rhythmic accentuation in Can she excuse my wrongs). End-to-end listening does not serve this concentrated series of vignettes as well as short bursts, especially in a countertenor who explores shades and nuances so plentifully (his tuning is highly expressive, only rarely discomfiting). If you are like me and have to listen to everything from start to finish, then relish the deft grouping of 'sets' separated by Christopher Wilson's delightful solo lute playing; he is a superb accompanist, too, whose composed commentary quietly irradiates proceedings. Recommended.'