NYMAN No Time in Eternity
Michael Nyman’s soundtrack to Prospero’s Books – director Peter Greenaway’s 1991 postmodern homage to Shakespeare’s The Tempest – remains one of his most powerful scores. So powerful, in fact, that Greenaway just didn’t know what to do with it. Ever resourceful, Nyman found other uses, including a vibrant, colourful saxophone concerto (subtitled Where the Bee Dances) and the five Ariel songs, performed here in a new arrangement by the brilliant countertenor Paulin Bündgen and equally impressive viol consort Ensemble Céladon.
That Nyman’s setting of Shakespeare’s words should find its most natural home in the sound world of the early 17th century seems almost too obvious to mention. The result is a striking synthesis of old and new, as heard in ‘Full fathom five’. Here, deep, resonant viols provide an ideal backdrop for Bündgen’s floating lines. Elsewhere, in ‘Where the bee sucks’ (Nyman’s starting point for the aforementioned saxophone concerto), a busy treble line scurries above and around a calming melody in the voice.
In between, as if to draw the ancient and modern into sharper relief, works by several English Renaissance composers are included, ranging from Nathaniel Patrick to William Byrd. The edges become particularly blurred in Christopher Tye’s remarkable Sit Fast – edgy dissonances giving way later to almost minimalist-style repetitive cycles. The focus remains on Nyman, however. The Self-Laudatory Hymn of Inanna, originally performed by James Bowman and Fretwork, is given a more relaxed treatment. But the recent No Time in Eternity – settings of short poems by Robert Herrick composed specifically for Bündgen and Ensemble Céladon, remains the highlight. Charming, enchanting, soul melting lullabies, to paraphrase the 17th-century lyric poet.