Tuesday 29 May 2018

The Dark Lord's Music

The Dark Lord's Music - Martin Eastwell
Jakob Reys, Du Gast, Robert Johnson, John Dowland, Daniel Batcheler, Diomedes Cato, Gauthier, Henri de l'Enclos, Cuthbert Hely, Despond, Edward Lord Herbert; Martin Eastwell; Music & Media
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 13 Mar 2018 Star rating: 3.5 (★★★½)
Music from a 17th century lute book created for, and by, Lord Herbert of Cherbury

The Dark Lord's Music: The Lutebook of Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, Martin Eastwell (lute), Music & Media MMC117 (released 1 June 2018)

Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1582-1648) is perhaps best-known at the moment for his portrait by Isaac Oliver which was purchased by the National Trust in 2016 to enable it to remain at Powys Castle in Wales. Edward, Lord Herbert was a soldier, diplomat, courtier, philosopher, poet, historian and musician, writing not only one of the earliest autobiographies in English but also De Veritate a book which led to Lord Herbert being known as the "father of English Deism". De Veritate was placed on the Roman Catholic Church's Index of Forbidden Books, and remained there until 1966.

Lord Herbert was also a lutenist; when he died he left his chest of viols and all his lutes to his daughter in law, which suggests he had a number of the instruments. He played the lute and wrote for it, and Lord Herbert's Lute Book is one of the major sources of English and Continental lute music of the period. The book seems to have re-surfaced in 1956 and is now in the Fitzwilliam Museum. The work of three different copyists (one perhaps the composer), it may have been started in the period 1608 to 1614 (the watermark date of the paper) which is a period when Lord Herbert was in Paris (and met King Henry IV), whilst the final pieces seem to date from 1639 or 1640.

Edward Herbert, 1st Lord Herbert of Cherbury by Isaac Oliver, 1613-14, National Trust / NT 1183954
Edward Herbert, 1st Lord Herbert of Cherbury by Isaac Oliver, 1613-14, National Trust / NT 1183954
The range of composers included is quite wide with names from the English Golden Age such as John Dowland, major works from the early 17th century by Daniel Batcheler, Robert Johnson, Cuthbert Hely and Lord Herbert himself, and Continental works by Jakob Reys (Polish but in the service of the French King), Du Gast (identification uncertain), Diomedes Cato (an Italian protestant who settled in Poland), Gauthier (identification uncertain), Henri de l'Enclos (father of the courtesan and freethinker Ninon de l'Enclos), Luc (or Pierre) Despond (sons of a Parisian instrument maker).

On this disc lutenist Martin Eastwell presents us with a selection of twenty pieces from the 240 in the book. The disc's title The Dark Lord's Music comes from Lord Herbert being known by his contemporaries as The Dark Lord Herbert, partly  because of his physical appearance and partly because of his ideas (Deism was inherently hostile to organised religion).

Playing a pair of lutes, which reflects the way the lute changed over the period the book was written, Eastwell brings out the beautiful gravity of this music. It is grave and thoughtful, an elegant civilised art. The majority of pieces are in dance forms, but that does not prevent an elegant sobriety to the music.

Released 1 June 2018. Available from Amazon.

Elsewhere on this blog:
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  • George Benjamin & Martin Crimp's Lessons in Love and Violence  (★★★★½) - Opera review
  • A heart in exile: pianist Lucy Parham talks about her latest composer portrait - interview
  • Prophetiae Sibyllarum:  Gallicantus (★★★★) - CD review
  • Interesting programmes, strange timing - homages to Lully and Louis Couperin  at London Festival of Baroque music (★★★★ / ★★★½) - concert review
  • Musical style is like a language: I chat to German composer Moritz Eggert  - Interview
  • Alan Rawsthorne - a portrait: Chamber music and woodwind concertos (★★★) - CD review
  • Unashamedly Romantic: Reynaldo Hahn chamber music from James Baillieu and friends (★★★★½) - CD review
  • Transcendent mysticism: Vaughan Williams' Mass from St John's College (★★★★★) - CD review
  • Te Deum: Purcell & Charpentier at Westminster Abbey for London Festival of Baroque Music (★★★★) - Concert review
  • All-star Orfeo - Iestyn Davies and Sophie Bevan at the London Festival of Baroque Music (★★★★)  - Concert review
  • Sonorous debut: Neil Ferris & Sonoro in Frank Martin & James MacMillan (★★★★) - CD review
  • Gilbert & Cellier: A work of real musical personality, The Mountebanks rediscovered  (★★★★) - CD review
  • Vivica Genaux & Sonia Prina recreate the music sung by two great castratos at the Wigmore Hall  (★★★★) - concert review
  • The story of a journey: Roderick Williams & Christopher Glynn in Schubert's Winter Journey  (★★★★★) - CD review
  • Welcome to the Magical Garden or perhaps the Garden of Magic: the piano music of Robert Saxton (★★★★) - CD review
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