English Madrigals & Songs

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English Madrigals & Songs

  • Pastyme with good companye
  • Blow thi horne hunter
  • Ah, Robin, gentle Robin
  • Hey troly loly lo
  • (The) First Set of English Madrigals, Weepe, O mine eies (3vv)
  • (The) Second Set of Madrigals, Draw on sweet night (6vv)
  • Madrigals of Five and Six Parts, Thule the period of cosmographie (6vv)
  • (The) Triumphs of Oriana, As Vesta was from Latmos (Weelkes)
  • Sound saddest notes
  • Fair Phyllis I saw sitting all alone
  • Sleep, fleshly birth
  • Mother I will have a husband
  • Lay a garland on her hearse
  • Brigg Fair
  • (The) Trees so High
  • (8) Partsongs, No. 3, The bluebird

Naxos have found an inviting little gap in their catalogue and have filled it very neatly. The programme is tripartite, with “Madrigals from the Golden Age” as its centrepiece. And what gems they are! ‘Eight of the best’ may be a phrase with oddly assorted overtones, but there are eight madrigals here, from this infinitely rich store in our national heritage, and all are of the finest quality. From a little earlier in Tudor times come, first, Henry VIII’s own composition and then other songs including two by William Cornysh, the haunting Ah, Robin being probably preferable to the hunting exercise in country matters which it follows. The third group, “Romantic Songs and Partsongs”, brings its pleasures too, starting with one of those deeply impressive testimonials to a love of early music, bequeathed by Robert Lucas Pearsall who deserves to have had a record to himself by now.
The Oxford Camerata are a group of 12 singers, strong on rhythm (other essentials too, but it is their rhythmic sense that keeps everything alert). There are some excellent voices among them, most notably the soprano of Carys-Anne Lane and James Gilchrist’s tenor, both delightful in their respective solos. If the blend and balance have a fault it lies with the rather too weighty bass-line; in some instances – E major instead of D for Draw on sweet night, for example – a higher key might have helped. But these are singers with feeling, and at certain moments (as in Carlton’s lament, Sound saddest notes, or the lines about Elysian fields in Weep, weep mine eyes) the listener catches from them, fresh, the composer’s inspiration. The gap in the Naxos catalogue, now so neatly stopped, is probably to be found on many a collector’s shelves which might be correspondingly enriched.'

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