The Secular Elizabethans

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Program: #16-17   Air Date: Apr 18, 2016

Dowland, dances, and music in the court of Mary Queen of Scots.

NOTE: All of the music on this program features music from Shakespeare's’ time and soon after.

I. A Painted Tale (Nicholas Phan, t./Michael Leopold, lute/Anee Marie Morgan, gamba). Avie CD AV2325.

Recordings Phan Painted Tale Cover 615

From Opera News: A Painted Tale, the third solo album from American tenor Nicholas Phan, weaves together songs by several sixteenth– and seventeenth-century English composers into a narrative of love desired, gained and lost. The album tells the story in what Phan himself describes as a “pastiche” song cycle, modeled after the great Romantic song cycles of the nineteenth century, but which Phan communicates with the immediacy of a contemporary singer-songwriter. The intimate texture of the album, created by Michael Leopold on lute and Ann Marie Morgan on viola da gamba,adds to this effect and makes the journey of the album seem like both the retelling of a legend and a first confession.
The album’s first track, “A Painted Tale” by Thomas Morley (1557/8–1602), is an invitation into the story, with Phan assuming the roles of singing bard and protagonist. The tale itself begins with a song of unrequited love, “O solitude, my sweetest choice,” by Henry Purcell (1659–95), which Phan infuses with erotic melancholy. The John Blow (1649–1708) songs that follow, “Fairest work of happy nature” and “The Self Banished,” are playful even as they express yearning and jealousy, giving Phan, Leopold and Morgan the opportunity to experiment with colors and dynamic shading.

The eroticism of waiting and jealousy heats up in “Fire, fire” by Nicholas Lanier (1588–1666). Phan injects a lifetime of jealousy into each consonant and sings Lanier’s setting of Thomas Campion’s poem with an unrestrained erotic urgency. This cools into Blow’s seductive “O turn not those fine eyes away,” which hypnotizes and seduces with a spinning dance rhythm.

Purcell’s “Sweeter than roses” and “She loves and she confesses too,” provide the turning point in the tale. Phan becomes the triumphant lover and his voice, calm and contemplative in the first line of “Sweeter than roses,” turns heroic and muscular, especially in the songs’ melismatic passages.

The descending ground bass in Lanier’s “No more shall meads” foreshadows an exile from paradise even as Phan, Leopold and Morgan create a semblance of peace. The fiery fioratura and triumphant melismas return in Blow’s “Of all the torments” and the façade of joy crumbles. The protagonist retreats into himself in Purcell’s quietly dramatic, “Not all my torments.” It is a short but powerful song with each of the poem’s four lines set as a different emotional beat that Phan performs with an actor’s sense of poetry and declamation.

Two songs composed by John Dowland (1563–1626) are the highlights of the last third of the album. In the sepulchral “In darkness let me dwell,” Phan covers his youthful, bright voice with shades of grey, while “Come, heavy Sleep” is memorable for the way Phan clings to consonants and vibrates every vowel with intention.

The story ends with Purcell’s familiar “Evening Hymn.” Phan sings the song as a hymn of liberation not from life, as the song would suggest, but from the pain of love. We are left with the feeling that the protagonist did not die from his suffering but has learned something from it and moved on — a thoroughly twenty-first-century conclusion. spacer

. Thomas Morley (1557/8 – 1602) A Painted Tale (2.39)
2. Henry Purcell (1659 – 95) O solitude (5.42)
3. Robert Johnson (1572/3 – 1637) Have you seen but a bright Lily grow (1.54)
4. John Blow (1649 – 1708) Fairest work of happy nature (3.23)
5. Blow The Self Banished (2.01)
6. Nicholas Lanier (1588 – 1666) Fire, Fire (1.52)
7. Blow O turn not those fine eyes away (3.17)
8. Purcell Sweeter than roses (3.21)
9. Purcell She loves and she confesses too (2.16)
10. Lanier No more shall meads be deck’d with flowers (7.00)
11. John Dowland (1563 – 1626) My thoughts are winged with hopes (2.34)
12. Blow Of all the torments, all the cares (3.57)
13. Dowland Can she excuse my wrongs
14. Purcell Not all my torments (2.48)
15. Alfonso Ferrabosco (1575 – 1628) So, so Leave off this last amenting kiss (2.49)
16. Dowland In darkness let me dwell
17. Dowland Now, O now I needs must part
18. Dowland Come Heavy Sleep
19. Lanier Stay, Silly Heart

1. Thomas Morley: A Painted Tale -
2. Henry Purcell: O solitude -
3. Robert Johnson: Have you seen but a bright Lily grow -
4. John Blow: Fairest work of happy nature -
5. John Blow: The Self Banished -
6. Nicholas Lanier: Fire, Fire -
7. John Blow: O turn not those fine eyes away -
8. Purcell: Sweeter than roses -
9. Purcell: She loves and she confesses too -
10. Lanier: No more shall meads be deck'd with flowers -
11. John Dowland: My thoughts are winged with hopes -
12. John Blow: Of all the torments, all the cares -
13. Dowland: Can she excuse my wrongs -
14. Purcell: Not all my torments -
15. Alfonso Ferrabosco: So, so Leave off this last amenting kiss -
16. Dowland: In darkness let me dwell -
17. Dowland: Now, O now I needs must part -
18. Dowland: Come Heavy Sleep -
19. Lanier: Stay, Silly Heart -
20. Purcell: Evening Hymn

II. Lord Galloway’s Delight (Les Witches). Alpha/Outhere CD 823.

The Witches continue their exploration of the music of the British Isles in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This series, successfully launched with the disc Nobody's Jig, sheds new light on songs and dances at the intersection of the art music and folk music repertories. Our team of witches is joined here by Siobhán Armstrong, a talented harpist specialising in the Irish repertory. Together they recount an alternative history of Great Britain and Ireland, following the tunes as one goes up the course of a river, discovering with delight the treasures each of them has in store: spellbinding melodies and vivid titles which, in their evocation of people and places, bring the pages of history back to life.

1 She Rose And Leit Me In 5:21
2 The Ragg Set By A Gentlemen (Irish Rag) 3:55
3 Ld Gallaways Lamentation 6:06
4 Sr Ulick Burk 4:32
5 Mary O'Neill 3:43
6 On The Cold Ground 3:08
7 Bellamina 3:57
8 Molly Halfpenny (Molly O'hailpin) 3:45
9 Limbrick's Lamentation 5:57
10 I Loved Thee Once 5:23
11 Siege Of Limerick 3:17
12 Counsellor Mc Donoghs Lamentation 8:11
13 Jennys Whim, Role The Rumple Sawny 2:24
14 Lads Of Leight 2:59
15 Johney Cock Thy Beaver: A Scotch Tune To A Ground 3:54
16 Kings Hornpipe, Newcastle 2:58
17 Miss Hamilton 4:15
18 Da Mihi Manum (Tabair Dom Do Lámb) 4:06

III. The Flaming Fire: Mary Queen of Scots and Her World (Ryland Angel, t. & ct/Parthenia). MSR Classics CD MS1490.

The collection of songs, dances, and psalm settings drawn together for Parthenia’s latest CD release, The Flaming Fire, offers a glimpse into the musical world of 16th-century Scotland and England. Much of the repertoire, illuminated by Lucy Cross in excellent liner notes, reflects the political and religious struggles of that period in history. Although this translates into few opportunities for toe tapping, listeners can look forward to many rewards. Parthenia’s successful navigation through countless details—such as the ordering of 27 fairly short tracks, the balance of secular music with sacred, and the balance of music by known composers with unknown—enables the performers to focus on the heart of the matter: excellent ensemble playing and interpretations rich in depth. Guest tenor and countertenor Ryland Angel renders texts clearly and with a pure approach appropriate for these simple, reverent songs. On virginal, Dongsok Shin accompanies with a similar simplicity, introducing variety to the texture without intruding. The Flaming Fire includes several pieces worth singling out. The recording opens and closes with arrangements of four songs by Scottish poet Robert Burns. These delightful pieces—arranged specifically for Parthenia and vocalist Ryland Angel by Richard Einhorn—blend with and enhance the disc’s 16th-century repertoire. The other highlights include works by beloved composers. Referencing Queen Mary, William Byrd’s lone contribution is the exquisite “The Noble Famous Queen.” Fans of Ralph Vaughan Williams will relish hearing the psalm setting by Thomas Tallis, the inspiration for Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis. And finally, the sequence of contrasting versions of Psalm 18 creates a beautiful set.

From Music Web International:
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]

4. John Blow (1649 – 1708) Fairest work of happy nature (3.23)
5. Blow The Self Banished (2.01)
6. Nicholas Lanier (1588 – 1666) Fire, Fire (1.52)
7. Blow O turn not those fine eyes away (3.17)
8. Purcell Sweeter than roses (3.21)
9. Purcell She loves and she confesses too (2.16)
10. Lanier No more shall meads be deck’d with flowers (7.00)
11. John Dowland (1563 – 1626) My thoughts are winged with hopes (2.34)
12. Blow Of all the torments, all the cares (3.57)
13. Dowland Can she excuse my wrongs
14. Purcell Not all my torments (2.48)
15. Alfonso Ferrabosco (1575 – 1628) So, so Leave off this last amenting kiss (2.49)
16. Dowland In darkness let me dwell
17. Dowland Now, O now I needs must part
18. Dowland Come Heavy Sleep
19. Lanier Stay, Silly Heart
20. Purcell Evening Hymn - See more at:

Composer Info

Thomas Morley (1557/8–1602), Henry Purcell (1659–95), John Blow (1649–1708) ,Nicholas Lanier (1588–1666), John Dowland (1563–1626), Robert Johnson (1572/3 – 1637), Alfonso Ferrabosco (1575 – 1628), Robert Burns, John BLACK (fl.c.1516-1587), James LAUDER (c.1535-1595), Wilson (c.1550), David PEEBLES (c.1530-1576), William BYRD (c.1543-1623), Robert JOHNSON (c.1500-1560), Anthony HOLBORNE (c.1550-1602), John BENNET (fl.c1595-1614),Robert JOHNSON (the younger) (c.1583-1633), Renaldo PARADISO (d.1570), Thomas TALLIS (c1505-1585)

CD Info

CD AV2325, Alpha/Outhere CD 823, CD MS1490.