With the exception of 2 composers (Orlando Gough and Salamone Rossi), this CD focuses on the music of composers in the British royal court in the second half of the XVI century and the first half of the XVII century. A special attention is given to those composers of Italian/Jewish origin, who were living in England under different identities, among whom the two prominent families of the Bassanos and the Lupos stand out.
The attention of Fretwork - the famed six-member ensemble for early music, using period instruments - was drawn to this group of musicians after the publication in 1983 of an article by Roger Prior, the British professor, claiming that musician, composers, and instrument makers at the Tudor and Stuart courts were of Jewish origin, despite the banishing of Jews from England in 1290 (not to be 'readmitted' before 1655). While this is historically interesting, it does not affect much the quality and style of the music produced, which had both Italian and British flavors. Only the 3 pieces by Gough (labeled "Birds on Fire" - hence the title of the CD), and the 2 pieces by Rossi are different: the former are mysteriously modern with Jewish melodies; and the latter are a prayer and a psalm, sung in Yiddish.
Fans of early music, like myself, will much enjoy this CD. It transforms one to the period, when the court would retire after meals to listen to fantasia and dance-like pieces. Fretwork performance, as usual, is absolutely superb. I highly recommend it.