Songs by Henry & William Lawes

Blaze sings with consummate control, impressive technical agility, a broad dynamic range and expressive flair; Kenny is his perfect accompanimental match, playing with flexibility, engaging adornment, dynamism, and unusual clarity of tone.
Many of the pieces here show the English response to continental progress, advances that travel, international marriages, publication, and the presence of foreign musicians at court would have made familiar. Italyís new text-centered baroque aesthetic, defined in works like Cacciniís Le nuove musiche, found an English echo in expressive, songs with declamatory elements and Italianate ornamental idioms. Henry Lawesí ìA Tale Out of Anacreonî and ìAmarillis by a Springî or William Lawesí ìO Let Me Still and Silent Lie,î are fine examples of this Anglo-Italianism; the ìaye meî of ìO Let Me Still and Silent Lieî is as doleful as any madrigalistic ohime. Compositional tongue in cheek, in the song ìIn quell gelato core,î Henry Lawes went so far as to set the table of contents of an Italian song anthology, a convincing aria di piu parte with all Italian idioms and ornamentations ìthereunto appertaining.î
The serious, impassioned Italianate songs are placed in counterpoint here with instrumental piecesóthe broody and moody lute fantasia by Cuthbert Hely is especially notableóand strophic songs with triple meter dance elements like ìO My Clarissaî or ìAmidst the Myrtles as I Walk.î The performances of these songs are unflaggingly captivating, not least for the animating and beguiling use of the plucked strings. With harp, guitar, and theorbo all engaged, who can resist? Although historically it is the declamatory songs that have seemed most significant, in this anthology, I suspect it is these pieces that will most readily gratify, a pleasant reminder of the congeniality of the English ayre and the persistence of its tradition.
The saga of the Lawes brothers is one marked by sad poignance, for William lost his life in 1645, fighting for the royalist cause at the Battle of Chester. The concluding work on the recording is Henryís ìPastoral Elegie to the memory of my deare Brother.î The text speaks of Williamís ability to ìallay the murmurs of the wind,î to ìappease the sullen seas,î to ìcalme the fury of the mind.î The imagery here reminds of the Orpheus archetype certainly, but in more concrete terms, it underscores the dynamic power of musical expression. In the ìSongs by Henry & William Lawes,î this is amply and wonderfully on display.
Steven Plank

image_description=Songs by Henry & William Lawes
product_title=Songs by Henry & William Lawes
product_by=Robin Blaze, countertenor; Elizabeth Kenny, lute and theorbo; with Rebecca Outram, soprano; Robert MacDonald, bass; William Carter, lute, guitar, and theorbo; Frances Kelly, double harp.
product_id=Hyperion CDA67589 [CD]