Friday 31 October 2014

Well-tuned Words

Well Tuned Words - Amanda Sidebottom, Erik Ryding - Quill Classics
John Dowland, Thomas Campion, John Danyel; Amanda Sidebottom, Erik Ryding; Quill Classics
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Oct 18 2014
Star rating: 3.5

Thoughtful selection of lute songs by Dowland and his contemporaries

Often when listening to lute songs from John Dowland and his contemporaries were do rather hear them all as the same genre and style, but this new disc from lutenist Erik Ryding and soprano Amanda Sidebottom on Quill Classics encourages us to listen again and to hear the stylistic differences between the songs of John Dowland, and his contemporaries Thomas Campion and John Danyel. Many familiar songs are here, Campion's Never Weather-beaten Sail, Dowland's If my complaints, Can she excuse, 'Now, O Now, I needs must part' and I must complain along with Campion's setting of this latter.

New York born Ryding provides his own liner note, a fascinating essay about the differences between the three composers. Thomas Campion was very much a classicist, considering rhyming verse as a medieval barbarism, whereas John Danyel's poet brother Samuel came out in print in support of rhyme. Campion's settings were highly influenced by Italian monody, and the vocal line supported by just a chordal accompaniment which contrasts strongly with Dowland's elaborate contrapuntal accompaniments.

Compaion's verse sometimes uses his method of quantitive verse, with long and short syllables that was used by Classical Latin and Greek poets.  Similarly his subject matter was often Classically inspired. Campion also ridiculed John Danyel's songs, regarding them as too complex with their mixture of counterpoint and word painting.

The selection of songs is attractive and you have the choice of listening with Ryding's lucid essay in your hand, or simply sitting back. The selection of Dowland songs comes mainly from his First Book of Songs or Ayres.

The recorded sound gives what sounds like quite a natural balance between voice and lute, with reasonable space around the performers but still with a sense of intimacy. Ryding is a fine lutenist and the songs show off his talents well. Sidebottom sings with a lovely pure tone and very careful enunciation, perhaps too careful. I have to confess that I find her performances a little lacking in vibrancy, with the tone too bleached and white. In many ways she is very poised, but for me she does not dig deep enough into the songs.

This is a lovely selection of songs, with a fascinating essay to make you really think about the music.

Thomas Campion (1657 - 1620) - Never Weather-beaten Sail [2:28]
Thomas Campion (1657 - 1620) - Oft Have I Sighed [2:08]
Thomas Campion (1657 - 1620) - The Peaceful Western Wind [3:34]
John Dowland (1563 - 1626) - If My Complaints [2:58]
John Dowland (1563 - 1626) - Orlando Sleepeth [1:28]
John Dowland (1563 - 1626) - His Golden Locks [3:21]
John Dowland (1563 - 1626) - Can She Excuse [2:47]
John Danyel (1564 - c.1626) - Thou Pretty Bird [1:25]
John Danyel (1564 - c.1626) - He Whose Desires [2:11]
John Danyel (1564 - c.1626) - Why Canst Thou Not [1:32]
John Dowland (1563 - 1626) - I Must Complain [2:57]
John Dowland (1563 - 1626) - Mrs. Winter’s Jump [0:59]
John Dowland (1563 - 1626) - I Saw My Lady Weep [4:42]
John Dowland (1563 - 1626) - Wilt Thou, Unkind, Thus Reave Me [2:59]
Thomas Campion (1657 - 1620) - I Must Complain [2:02]
Thomas Campion (1657 - 1620) - Come Let Us Sound [3:01]
Thomas Campion (1657 - 1620) - It Fell on a Summer’s Day [2:29]
Thomas Campion (1657 - 1620) - Shall I Come, Sweet Love, to Thee [2:56]
John Dowland (1563 - 1626) - Mr. Dowland’s Midnight [1:15]
John Dowland (1563 - 1626) - Go, Crystal Tears [2:47]
John Dowland (1563 - 1626) - Now, O Now, I Needs Must Part [4:21]
Amanda Sidebottom (soprano)
Erik Ryding (lute)
Recorded at Redeemer Lutheran Church, Glendale, New York, February, May, June 2013

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