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Albertus BRYNE (c.1621-1668)
Keyboard Music
Toletole [00:59]
Suite in a minor [05:08]
Suite in F [02:53]
Suite in d minor [05:55]
Suite in D [06:54]
Suite in a minor [11:05]
Suite in D [06:30]
Suite in d minor [05:45]
Saraband [01:06]
Voluntary in a minor [02:47]
Suite in D [05:23]
Anon.
Towle Towle [01:08]
John BULL (c.1562-1628)
Preludium [00:33]
Anon.
An Alman [01:32]
The Earle of Oxfordes Gallene [01:09]
Albertus BRYNE
Totetole [00:58]
A ground to ye organ or harpsichord [01:55]
Christopher GIBBONS (1615-1676)
3 Voluntaries for the single organ:
Voluntary in A [01:20]
Verse for ye single organ in D [02:47]
Verse in F [02:30]
Terence Charlston (harpsichord, organ, spinet)
rec. July 2006, Holy Trinity Church, Weston, Hitchin; November 2006, St Botolph's, Aldgate UK. DDD
DEUX-ELLES DXL1124 [68:26]



If you have never heard of an English composer with the name Albertus Bryne – also spelled as 'Brian' or 'Bryan' – there is no need to be ashamed. Few people will have heard of him, except for those who have a better than average knowledge of the history of English music. He has an article in New Grove, but to my knowledge until now none of his works has been recorded. So one can only be grateful to Terence Charlston for not only recording his complete keyboard works, but also for editing and publishing them. This will, I am sure, lead to his music being played – and recorded – in the future. If one looks into the catalogue of recordings of English keyboard music one will find that the music of the virginalists is very popular, but that Henry Purcell is virtually the only later composer whose music in this genre is regularly performed and recorded. Even distinguished colleagues of his, like John Blow, are largely ignored. As Bryne was an important link between the virginalists and the composers of the late 17th century one may hope that this recording and the printing of his music will lead to more attention being given to English harpsichord music of the late 17th century.
 
As is so often the case, the fact that Bryne is an almost unknown quantity today tells us nothing about his reputation among his contemporaries. He was described as "that famously velvet fingered organist" and "an excellent musitian". But he had the bad luck to be active during the political upheaval which led to the Commonwealth. This resulted in his being dismissed from his post as organist at St Paul's, a position he had held since 1638 as a successor to his teacher, John Tomkins. He survived the Commonwealth by teaching the keyboard. After the Restoration he returned to his old post, which he lost again in the wake of the Great Fire of 1666. The last two years of his life he worked as organist of Westminster Abbey. When he died in 1668 he was succeeded there by John Blow.
 
It was probably during the Commonwealth period that most of his keyboard works were written, as they are primarily intended for domestic performance. They were widely appreciated, not only in his own time, but also in the 18th century, as some copies of his music prove. Historically "Bryne's suites occupy a unique position between the 'Golden Age' of the English Virginalists and the highly individual voices of English Baroque at the end of the century", Terence Charlston writes in the booklet. "The musical style and texture of Bryne's suites had a considerable influence on the next generation of composers, especially Blow and Purcell and they illuminate the development of their constituent dances during a period of gradual evolution and growing continental influence." Bryne was one of the first English composers to organise his dances into suites by key. Most suites consist of three dances: almain, corant and saraband. Sometimes the almain is replaced by an ayre, and some suites have an additional fourth movement, a jig almain. "The jig-almain is a curious amalgam of two dance-types – the almain and the jig. It is relatively rare in English keyboard music, appearing only for a brief time, and in terms of the keyboard is almost unique to Bryne."
 
To put Bryne's music into historical context, music by preceding generations is added. There are a couple of anonymous pieces as well as compositions by John Bull and by Christopher Gibbons, son of Orlando, and Bryne's predecessor as organist at Westminster Abbey.
 
In the booklet Charlston states that keyboard music was played on any instrument a player had at his disposal. This is reflected in the choice of instruments on this disc. Two different harpsichords are used: copies of a single manual harpsichord by Ioannes Couchet of 1645 and of a double manual harpsichord by Ioannes Ruckers of 1624. In addition he uses a spinet, copied after Charles Haward (c.1680) and an organ. The latter was built 1702-04 by Renatus Harris at St Botolph's Aldgate, probably England's oldest surviving church organ. The tuning of all instruments is either 1/6 or 1/4 comma meantone and the pitch varies from a=442 (organ) to a=415.
 
Some pieces are played more than once, on different instruments and sometimes in slightly different versions. This contributes to the variation in the programme on this disc. But it is first and foremost Bryne's music itself which keeps the listener's attention. This is just excellent, and it is a great pleasure that it has been put on disc and brought to the attention of music lovers. Terence Charlston is an expert guide and stylish performer. The recording quality is first-class, and so are the programme notes. The booklet also contains all the relevant information regarding the instruments, tuning, pitch as well as the number of every individual piece in the upcoming edition. I strongly recommend this disc of so far unjustly neglected repertoire.
 
Johan van Veen
 



 


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