Tuesday 17 January 2017

Lively reminder: music from the Globe's productions of Twelfth Night & Richard III

Twelfth Night & Richard III - Globe Music
Music for Twelfth Night & Richard III arr. Claire van Kampen; Musicians of Shakespeare's Globe; Globe Music
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 10 2017
Star rating: 3.0

Lively Renaissance music selections which do not quite evoke theatrical drama of the pieces

This disc on the still relatively new Globe Music label was issued to celebrate Shakespeare 400 (I'm a bit late with the review I'm afraid). It features the Musicians of Shakespeare's Globe in two of Claire van Kampen's scores for Shakespeare plays, Twelfth Night and Richard III. The music is selected from a wide variety of contemporary sources, and arranged by Claire van Kampen. Twelfth Night was recorded live at the Globe Theatre, whilst Richard III  was recorded in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse under studio conditions.

The music for both plays consists mainly of lively scene-setting pieces with occasional quieter moments. In Twelfth Night we get the two songs sung affectingly by Peter Hamilton Dyer's Feste and we hear part of Liam Brennan's 'If music be the food of love' speech as Count Orsino which introduces Dowland's Lachrymae Pavan. For Twelfth Night, Van Kampen's selection of music ranges widely and there are pieces by Dowland, Morley Michael Praetorius, James Lauder, Playford, and Anthony Holborne. The sense of the live-ness is mainly restricted to applause after some items, though we do hear the audience laughing at the odd bit of unexplained stage business.

The copious notes in the CD booklet provide excellent musical background to each of the pieces, but rather frustratingly no dramatic context. I can't help feeling that to have had a little of the actors voices might have provided a more satisfying context for the music. For all the enticing image of Mark Rylance as Olivia on the cover, the recorded selections only partially evoke the play. The performances from the Musicians of the Globe (mainly wind and percussion) are excellent, in the lively and upfront manner that you would expect from musicians playing live in an open-air theatre. The aural image shifts somewhat between items, as if different microphones were used for different pieces, or perhaps the musicians simply moved around a lot.

The music for Richard III requires no input from the actors, so what we have is a series of dances, marches and entractes with music by Thomas Weelkes, Benedict Greebe, Jacob Praetorius, Claude Gervaise, Jean Chardevoine, and William Byrd, arranged by Claire van Kampen, and again we lack any dramatic context for the music.

The CD booklet has handsome pictures of both productions, and with such strong casts (including Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry) you wish we could have heard some of them.

As it is, the disc provides handsome reminder for those who heard the productions live, and a lively selection of Renaissance music for those of us who never saw the productions. Much excellent music-making goes on at the Globe Theatre, and I can sympathise with the desire to bring it to a wider audience. But I am not sure that this format quite works. Perhaps the Globe is chary of using bleeding chunks of spoken dialogue to link the music, but certainly you feel that the format needs a re-think.

The performances on the disc are excellent, and the musicians play with an appealing verve which makes the music suitably toe-tapping.

arr. Claire van Kampen - music for Twelfth Night, and for Richard III
Count Orsini - Liam Brennan
Feste - Peter Hamilton-Dyer
The Musicians of Shakespeare's Globe (Emily Askew: recorders, Andrew Harwood-White: bass sackbut, tenor sackbut, Arngeir Hauksson: theorbo, lute, hurdy-gurdy, percussion, Phil Hopkins: timpani, percussion, music director (Richard III), Sarah Humphrys: recorders, shawm, Tom Lees: tenor sackbut, William Lyons: recorders, shawm, Claire McIntyre: tenor sackbut, Nicholas Penny: recorders, shawms, tenor cornett, pipe and tabor, bagpipe, Helen Roberts: Cornett, recorders, rauschpfeife, Emily White: alto sackbut, tenor sackbut, Adrian Woodward: cornett, Rauschpfeife, tenor recorder, music director (Twelfth Night))
Recorded live at Shakespeare's Globe (Twelfth Night) July 2012, and at Sam Wanamaker Playhouse (Richard III) August 2016
Available from Amazon.co.uk.

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