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'Madame d' Amours' - Songs, dances and consort music

Musica Antiqua of London
Philip Thorby
, director
Jennie Cassidy, voice;
Jacob Heringman, lute; Ian Harris, mute cornett, bagpipes;
John Bryan, Alison Crum, Roy Marks, Philip Thorby viols, recorders, shawms, harp, harpsichord and sackbut

Catherine of Aragon (Queen 1509-1533)
Danza Alta
Whines lyre or breth (Francisco de la Torre; fl. 1483-1504)
My Lady Wynkefields Rownde
Nigra sum Matthieu de Gascongne (fl 1517-18)
Adew Ie companye William Cornyshe (d 1523)

Anne Boleyn (Queen 1533-1536)
Blow thi Home Hunter William Cornyshe
My Lady Carey's Dompe
Adiutorium nostrum Antoine de Fe (cI470-1511/12)
La Gamba;
Blame not my Lute

Jane Seymour (Queen 1536-1537)
Gentil Prince
En vr y amoure
King Harry VIII Pavyn
Madame d'amours
Ricercar Vincenzo Capirola (1474 - after 1548)
Duke of Somersett's Dompe

Anne of Cleves (Queen 1540)
Ainxi bon youre
E n Vroulic Wesen Jacobus Barbireau (1455-1491)
La danse de Cleves

Catherine Howard (Queen 1540-1542)
Tyme to pas Henry VIII (1491 - 1547)
Prince Edwarde's Pavyn
Quam pulchra es Henry VIII
The Kynges Marke
Adieu Madame et ma mastres

Catherine Parr (Queen 1543-1547)
Pavyn of Albart
A Virgin & a Mother John Merbecke (c1505-c1585)
Ashton's Maske Hugh Ashton (1485-1558)

This programme of music for Henry VIII's six queens was as in the one concert I was unable to attend during the Greenwich Festival 2004. Clifford Bartlett of Early Music Review (do click on that link if you don't know that publication?) chooses it as his disc of the month, and I found it one of the most satisfying of the year's early-early music offerings received. It balances the rumbustious (not too many of those) with viol consort pieces and affecting songs in the pure, vibrato-less soprano of Jennie Cassidy; not the best-known of early music songsters, but in her unassertive way one of the best.

Enormous scholarship and imagination has gone into compiling this programme and there are things for everyone to learn from the compendious notes by Philip Thorby. The multi-skills of the instrumentalists is a source of wonder and, again, the virtuosity is of a sort that does not seek to dazzle; cornetts and shawms are harder than they sound here.

Signum is generally, as here, compendious in information provided and its booklets are a pleasure to handle. Texts and translations, of course, with details of every instrument and exactly who plays what on each track. A winner.

© Peter Grahame Woolf