Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

The World of English Ayres & Madrigals
First Booke of Songs 1597 - Come away come sweet love / Rest awhile you cruel cares. Second Booke of Songs 1600 - Praise blindness eyes / Fine knacks for ladies / White as lilies was her face. Third Booke of Songs 1603 - Me me and none but me / When Phoebus first did Daphne love / Say love if ever thou didst find .
Gibbons The First Set of Madrigals and Motets 1612 - The silver swan / Dainty fine bird / Fine ladies that to Love (the first part) / 'Mongst thousands good (the second part) / Fair is the rose / Trust not too much fair youth .
Wilbye First Set of Madrigals 1598 - Lady when I behold / Thus saith my Cloris bright / Die hapless man / Lady your words do spite me / Lady when I behold the Roses / Why dost thou shoot. Second Set of Madrigals 1609 - Ye that do live in pleasures / Ah cannot sighs nor tears / Softly o softly drop mine eyes .
Morley Ayres and Madrigals - Arise awake / No no no no Nigella / Stay heart run not so fast / Hard by a crystal fountain / Deep lamenting / Hark Alleluia .
The Consort of Musicke/Anthony Rooley
Decca 467 786-2 [70 mins]
Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Overheard on a riverbank on a warm evening, sung in a passing punt on the Isis or Cam as an undemanding evocation of the good life of yesteryear, this would be Heaven. It is good to have a generous, inexpensive collection of the best of English vocal music from the Golden Age of c.1600, superbly sung by a group which knows the field inside out. No other is better able to present the felicities of this 'heritage' music. The singers are un-named, and will have changed a little between 1975 & 1983. Emma Kirkby is conspicuously present.

Most of the pieces are contrapuntal and unaccompanied; a few with instrumental support. Our ears are well trained to listen to multiple instrumental part writing. But here there is another additional factor to be registered, the equally complex verbal structures of those favoured poets whom these composers delighted in setting. They are not named in the track listing, nor do any words seem to be supplied in this series.

The background notes by Raymond McGill mention that Gibbons set poetry of high quality by Spencer, Raleigh & Donne. You will usually catch the first words of each item, and many others, even some whole phrases, but you would need to be alert, with a pencil and notebook to hand and sharper ears than mine, to unravel at first hearing the similes and metaphors and relish the poems which inspired these miniature masterpieces, and you are likely to give up the attempt. Does it matter? You will have to decide for yourselves. Many opera lovers prefer to listen to favourite arias in foreign tongues, because the words are often banal, but that does not apply to this repertoire.

One should not cavil; it is a paradox that such superb sound now comes cheaper than old-fashioned print! They are mostly ADD, remastered for reissue this year. Do not be discouraged. If you do not have a CD of madrigals in your collection, buy this one, enjoy it for easy listening and be encouraged to explore the field further with some of the CDs (doubtless more expensive) which are more fully documented.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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