The good people at Divine Art Recordings (www.divineartrecords.com) just sent in a musical care package eminently suited to calm our troubled minds, so overloaded with the noise emanating these days from our TV sets.
I turned off CNN and put on my CD player Sonnets, Airs and Dances (dda 25131), a collection of instrumental and vocal music by a most gifted composer heretofore unknown to me: Philip Wood.
The neatly-packaged CD has 24 tracks, and a running time of 71 minutes of sheer delight. It was recorded at different times, though it credits one sound engineer, Richard Scott, to whom I tip my hat for utterly clear, undistorted, intimately comforting sound.
Sonnets, Airs and Dances is a short cycle of four songs for soprano, harpsichord and recorder, set to poetry by Donne, Keats and some of their contemporaries, and interspersed by two instrumental pieces: a Furlana and a Sarabande. Of the six pieces, the unaccompanied O my Blacke Soule is a stunner.
Five Spring Songs adds cello to the recorder, harpsichord, soprano ensemble and salutes in a pantheistic way Spring and Youth in a short set of settings by English poets. Two Motets for solo soprano are lovely renditions of Latin texts from the Common Book of Prayer: Ave Maria and Ave verum corpus. The Partita for Recorder and Cello explores that unlikely instrumental pairing with felicitous results.
Countertenor James Bowman commands our attention with the multi-lingual Aria, Recitative and Rondo, accompanied by cellist, Jonathan Price. This is a most theatrical piece that riffs on love spiritual and carnal providing a perfect vehicle for Bowman’s velvety countertenor.
After the instrumental for solo recorder, A Lonesdale Dance, the CD ends with a two-movement Concertino for Recorder and String Quartet. Both are light-hearted pieces d’occasion rife with inventiveness.
Composer Wood and his eclectic instrumental and vocal forces – soprano Lesley-Jane Rogers, John Turner, recorder, Harvey Davies, harpsichord, Heather Bills and Jonathan Price, cellists, and countertenor James Bowman who make up the Manchester Camerata Ensemble provide a most pleasurable listening experience.
The six musicians serve this beautiful music with a neat mix of flair and accuracy coupled to an elusive style so difficult to imitate, so impossible to pin down, so quintessentially English.
Rafael de Acha