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William and Henry Lawes Songs

Hely, C:

Lawes, H:
A Tale out of Anacreon
Oh, that joy so soon should waste
Sweet, stay awhile; why do you rise?
From the heav’ns now I fly
Sweet Echo, sweetest nymph that liv’st unseen
Oh sweet woods, the delight of solitariness
Tavola: In quel gelato core una voce
Loves Sweet Repose: Amidst the myrtles as I walk
No Reprieve: Now, now Lucasia, now make haste
The Angler’s Song: Man’s life is but vain, for ’tis subject to pain
A Pastoral Elegie: Cease you jolly shepherds
Amarillis, by a spring
Slide soft, you silver floods
When shall I see my captive heart?

Lawes, W:
When man for sin thy judgment feels
Corant for two lutes
A Dreame: I laid me down upon a pillow soft
Alman for two lutes
Country Dance
Corant from The Royall Consort
Oh, my Clarissa, thou cruel fair
Oh, let me still and silent lie
Gather your rosebuds while you may

Saman: Monsieur Saman his Coranto

Robin Blaze (countertenor), Elizabeth Kenny (lute, theorbo), Rebecca Outram (soprano), Robert Macdonald (bass), William Carter (lute, guitar, theorbo) & Frances Kelly (double harp)

Hyperion - CDA67589

This is a magnificent disc. Despite its Spartan format – lute songs interleaved with a few dances for lutes alone, without any viol consort music – it compels interest and feeling throughout.

Caroline England was tinged with an inescapable melancholy. Beneath the plumes of the hats, underneath their decorated ceilings, inside their florid lace collars, the Cavaliers knew they were doomed. They knew that sooner or later, the Roundheads, so much more solid, and so much more boring, would catch up with them. Even as they acted out their masques and fantasies, their poetry spoke of mortality and disappointment. Flow my tears.

Of course, I am exaggerating the sense in which this awareness of mortality is unique to the time of Charles I; it extends many years back into late Mediaeval times, and carpe diem is as old as Horace, writing under the first Roman emperor. You don’t have to have read 1066 and All That, or done the Tudors and Stuarts at primary school history, or even be a fan of Simon Schama to know this.

Nevertheless, the proximity of the Civil War gives the disc its particular salience.Listening to this CD encapsulates this experience of a vanishing supremacy. Beauty, transience, mourning. Et in Arcadia ego. Robin Blaze is by now the doyen of English counter-tenors, Elizabeth Kenny a fine luteinist (as well as universally loved in her profession). Blaze sings with magnificent diction; Kenny’s lute-playing is expressive and sympathetic. The supporting cast, especially Rebecca Outram (soprano)is also excellent. Blaze’s authenticity extends to singing Italian in a hammed-up English accent.

These days, the Lawes brothers are greatly neglected, although the Wigmore Hall celebration of William’s 400th birthday, organised and impeccably researched by Mark Levy, was an ornament to the 2001-2 season. William (1602–1645) was killed in the English Civil War, Henry (1595 - 1662) lived on to lament the triumph of the Interregnum and Protectorate and (just) to see the Restoration. Of the two, Henry comes over as more conventional- sweet, strophic, sentimental songs seen at their best in the middle of the disc, such as Love’s Sweet Repose or In quel gelato core. William is both more subtle and more intense, as the very first song – Gather ye rosebuds, exemplifies. Henry is syrup, William juice.

This Hyperion production is the real thing. Buy it and…for the noblest possible reasons…. weep.

Ying Chang