The Flaming Fire - Mary Queen of Scots and her world
Parthenia (viol consort)/Dongsok Shin (virginal)
Ryland Angel (tenor; counter-tenor)
rec. 2013, Dorothy Young Centre for the Arts, Drew University, New Jersey
MSR CLASSICS MS1490 [64.29]

The twenty-seven pieces on this disc all have either a Scottish connection or one with the Elizabethan period in general. The collection culminates in three settings of Robbie Burns. The performers have divided the programme as follows:-

1. Nine 16th Century Scottish Songs and Dances preceded by an arrangement of Ca’ the yowes tae the knows
2. Kirk, Croft and Chapel - Eight works of a sacred origin
3. Elizabethan Songs and Dances
4. Finally the Robbie Burns settings also subtitled From Songs of Love and Betrayal.

This appears to be the fourth disc recorded for MSR by the American ensemble Parthenia who consist of four musicians playing viols. Its director Dongsok Shin plays the virginal. They are new to me as is the remarkable Ryland Angel who achieved something, which I did for a short time in my career but not as superbly as he, in being both a tenor and a counter-tenor. He is wonderful in both voices, which are sprinkled around the disc. Just listen to his cultured and controlled rendering of In a Garden Greene for which he uses his tenor voice. Then, on the very next track, his performance of The Flaming fire, the track which gives the disc its name, he features as a perfect and very anglicised counter-tenor.

Apart from Burns, most texts — and indeed the music — are anonymous but Sternhold's metrical version of Psalm 18, still used I believe, is to be found here. The texts are given in the booklet as are useful notes on the music and composers. They also provide background on Mary Stuart (1542-1587) herself whose ultimately tragic life in France, Scotland and England is all touched upon by this music.

France was very attached to Scotland forming an alliance in Mary's time. A look at Scottish architecture of the period tells you even more about the French influence. Just think of the huge parish church and castle in the ancient borough of Linlithgow. Scotland-and-France v England, was the call. Je suis déshéritée and some of the dances like the Tourdion are of French origin. There is also a delightful Fancy by the otherwise unknown Renaldo Paradiso, who, I assume, was of Italian origin. By way of contrast we have the very Protestant-English, Tallis Psalm tune, which, by the way, is the one, used by Vaughan Williams in his Tallis Fantasia.

Not all of the tracks are vocal; just under half in fact. The instrumentalists take a regular bow and the variety of sounds and speeds and styles are well juxtaposed. Some pieces have been arranged for the ensemble not least all of the Burns songs at the start and end of the disc. Richard Einhorn the arranger, writes a short essay about his approach to these beautifully understated settings.

The early Scottish composers include John Black and David Peebles. Some of this repertoire and some of these mysterious figures have been recorded before. Two contrasting CDs I would mention are Sacred Music for Mary Queen of Scots on ASV GAU136 and recorded by Capella Nova in 1993 and in which both composers feature. Then there's Mary’s Music recorded by the Scottish Early Music Consort in 1984 on Chandos CHAN0529. The latter concentrates on the secular music.

This is an enjoyable disc and if this music is new to you then it works very well indeed. It makes for a good entry point into a varied world of mostly British Renaissance music covering more than two centuries. All of it is sensitively and elegantly performed.

Gary Higginson

1. Traditional; Robert Burns, arr. Richard Einhorn Ca the yowes [4.12]
2. Anon Come, my Children dere [1.31]
3. John BLACK (fl.c.1516-1587) Musick Fyne [1.31]
4. Anon In a Garden Greene [3.01]
5. Anon The Flaming Fire [3.17]
6. James LAUDER (c.1535-1595) My Lord of Marche Paven [2.40]
7. Anon Hutchesoun’s Galyiard [0.50]
8. Anon Tourdion [0.40]
9. John BLACK My Delyt [1.36]
10. Attrib. Wilson (c.1550) Wilson’s Fantasie [1.38]
11. Anon Ane lessone upon the First psalme [1.55]
12. David PEEBLES (c.1530-1576) Psalm 18
13. Anon Psalm 18 in reports [2.31]
14. Anon Non Je suis déshéritée [1.38]
15. Anon our father God celestial [5.18]
16. John BLACK Lytill Black
17. William BYRD (c.1543-1623) The Noble Famous Queen [2.04)
18. Robert JOHNSON (c.1500-1560) A knell of Johnson [2.25]
19. Anthony HOLBORNE (c.1550-1602) Pavan ‘Paradizo’ [2.19]
20. John BENNET (fl.c1595-1614) Eliza, her name gives honour
21. John Bennet Venus’ Birds
22. Robert JOHNSON (the younger) (c.1583-1633) Almaygne: Mr.Johnson
23. Renaldo PARADISO (d.1570) A fancy [2.50]
24. Thomas TALLIS (c1505-1585) The third tune (from Archbishop Parker’s Psalter 1567)
25. Traditional: arranged by Richard Einhorn: Lament of Mary Queen of Scots [3.59]
26. Ditto A Rose-bud By My Early Walk [2.10]
27. Ditto Ye Banks and ye braes [4.14]


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