Andreas Scholl has been touring this interesting programme internationally
in recital with the same eminent accompanists. His counter-tenor voice combines
a beautiful tone quality, and evenness, with musical intelligence and scrupulous
attention to detail. He is acknowledged as one of the finest exponents of
a now well accepted voice type; the most dramatic change in matters of vocal
performance during the last half of the momentous century which is now receding
Robert Dowland (1591-1641), a minor composer of the time, made this collection
which bears his name in 1610. His father John (1563-1626) is the most famous
of those included; there is a suggestion that father helped his 19 yr. old
son with its compilation, the attribution perhaps to help launch the young
man's musical career. The net is cast widely, with French and Italian composers
as well as English, the first lute song collection to do so, and offers a
cross section of European solo song around 1600.
Scholl is an immaculate singer, but can sound a little over-respectful, studied
and cautious in the more familiar English repertoire. I thought he livened
up in some of the foreign songs, which are given with elegantly turned
embellishments. The accompaniments provide variety, with Markus Märkl
on harpsichord, Christopher Coin, bass viol, and Edin Karamazov on a collection
of lutes of different sizes, plus guitar and orpharion - 'a wire-strung plucked
instrument of the bandora family'of which only two survive ' (New Grove);
the copy used was 'kindly loaned by Anthony Rooley', who was responsible
for a rival recording of A Musicall Banquet ).
Caccini's famous Amarilli is exquisite, with fire in the middle section and
the entry of guitar in the following anonymous Passava Amor raised the
temperature a few degress further, before it is quenched by doleful Dowland
Far from triumphing court, the bass viol providing a suitably dark bass.
The provenance of Scholl's elaborations is not made clear, but his Amarilli
doesn't quite match the virtuosity, 'Orphic energy and delight in living
dangerously' of Emma Kirkby in Musica Oscura's Arie Antiche (MO 070988).
This collection will assuredly give great pleasure and bids fair to reap
critical reward. The texts are given complete in four languages, printed
on thin paper in parallel, far the best way. This gives space for the marketing
department to provide us with a four-page glossy cover spread, with three
photos of the singer in trendy garb, sitting at a long table with three lutes
(all the same modern one, actually, I think) and a tasteful scattering of
photo-copied sheets of music! (Nowhere in sight his colleagues, who are relegated
to small print in the old fashioned way to emphasise the soloist's stardom.)
Far more useful to have given a few more facts about the Collection, with
maybe a facsimile page or two and an illustration of the orpharion?
Peter Grahame Woolf