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English Songbooks of the 1700s

Emma Curtis (contralto) & The Frolick

AVIE AV2102 (2005-06 127 mins)


This is a generous compilation of more than 50 songs taken from “Calliope: a collection of the most Celebrated English and Scots Songs …..in the most correct Manner for all Teachers, Scholars and Lovers of Musick”


Purcell and Handel are both represented but the majority of pieces are by the founders of the English Opera Project – Arne, Carey and Lampe. Henry Carey emerges as the champion. He has in any case secured a place in posterity as the composer of Sally in our Alley and may possibly have written God Save the Queen, and his hitherto neglected songs are charming – spare a moment of sympathy for The Lady's Lamentation : “Adieu to the Opera, Adieu to the ball, My Darling is gone and a fig for them all”, though no doubt we would employ a stronger f*** word these days!


There's a song to suit every mood here from the melancholy to the teasing, and their sequence is pleasing.


The lavish booklet is got up in a rather arch period manner, but it does contain full texts, illustrations and notes.


Emma Curtis is to be congratulated for her considerable work in researching, directing and singing the collection; she clearly loves this repertoire and is well served by the seven instrumentalists of The Frolick. Her voice is very strong in the lower register although it doesn't quite have the flexibility that is called for and a number of words get swallowed.


The overall effect transports the listener back to the salons of Jane Austen's time – quod erat demonstrandum – a Volume the Second is promised.


Serena Fenwick