Tuesday 21 May 2019

Delicatessen II - More Choice Morsels of Early English Song

Delicatessen II - Kate Semmens, Steven Devine
Delicatessen II - early English Songs; Kate Semmens, Steven Devine; Devine Music Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 17 May 2019 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
A charming exploration of the often-ignored English song tradition from the 17th and 18th centuries

Under the title Delicatessen II, this is the second of soprano Kate Semmens and harpsichordist Steven Devine's explorations of early English song on Devine Music. Few of the composers are well known, though there is a sprinkling of material by John Blow, William Boyce, Maurice Greene and Thomas Arne, alongside songs and piano works by Eliza Turner, William Jackson and John Stanley, John Weldon, Samuel Howard, James Hook, and John Frederick Lampe

These are songs from the 17th and 18th centuries, and they were all written for voice and keyboard (no arrangements of orchestral items). So the material on the disc is all designed for intimate domestic use. The works stretch beyond song, there are two cantatas by John Stanley, charming, witty pieces, and there are keyboard collections too, by Maurice Greene and Eliza Turner, who was active as a singer as well. The keyboard music consists of loose groupings of movements, often dances, under the title of Lessons.

Maurice Green set a number of sonnets (25 in all) by Edmund Spencer, a remarkable cycle of work, and we get one here. Perhaps the most intriguing pieces are the pair of songs by William Jackson where the accompaniment is fully written out for keyboard, unlike the other songs on the disc which use the more old-fashioned figured bass leaving the detail to the improvisation of the player.

This is a charming disc, featuring material which is often overlooked. One thread which links the songs is the composers' sympathy to the text. Whilst some of the songs might be musically a bit thin, there is no doubt that all the composers were aiming to bring out the charms of the words.

Kate Semmens and Steven Devine do them ample justice, giving us a window onto a charming and often neglected world.

Delicatessen II
Songs and piano music by John Blow, William Boyce, Maurice Greene, Thomas Arne, Eliza Turner, William Jackson and John Stanley
Kate Semmens (soprano)
Steven Devine (harpsichord)
Recorded in Sendesaal, Bremen, in May 2018
DMCD009 1CD [75.14]

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