Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

BYRD Consort Songs  James Bowman, counter tenor, with Ricercar Consort Ricercar 206 442 [61 mins.]


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This is a curious CD. It finds James Bowman, our national treasure, in excellent voice just before his 58th birthday, when he made this recording for a French label at Bolland. But there is no indication of his importance in the story of the counter tenor, Bowman being the chief pioneer after Alfred Deller.

Research has encouraged the performance of English madrigals and motets with instrumentalists taking some of the parts, a practise which was usual too on the continent in performing music by the Flemish polyphonists. The CD's title is a little misleading because only seven of the songs are by William Byrd. The rest are by that prolific composer of the period, Anonyme, and the consort songs with viols are interspersed with several Fantasias by Byrd.

The music is for the greater part slow and decidedly solemn. Some items are connected with events of the time. Rejoice in the Lord is a tribute to Queen Elizabeth I, who tolerated Byrd's Catholicism. Ye sacred muses is an elegy upon the death of Byrd's teacher, Thomas Tallis, organist of St Alfege's, the local church near my home in Greenwich, where Tallis's organ is proudly preserved.

A pleasant CD for Bowman fans, but otherwise perhaps more for the specialist. There are no biographical notes about any of the performers Full texts are provided in English and French, and the recording is satisfactory.


Peter Grahame Woolf


Peter Grahame Woolf

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