9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
, 18 July 2002
This review is from: Purcell in the Ale House - English Part Songs & Lute Songs - Apex (Audio CD)
In fact only 4 of these 28 songs are by Purcell. Much the longest number (plus 8 others) is by or attributed to the publisher Ravenscroft, 3 are by Dowland, 2 are by Campion and the others are by composers unfamiliar to me.
Anyone looking for naughty thrills from this disc is going to have a struggle because the words are not provided. The singers' articulation is good, as one would expect from such specialists, and the significance of, e.g., 'tis a long prick' in Isham's 'Celia Learning on a Spinet' will probably be clear to most on first hearing, but this is really a record for listeners whose interest is mainly musical. Three of the Purcell songs make a quick impression as being less straightforward (musically that is) than the others, and Coleman's sad 'The Glories of Our Birth' is quite a tear-jerker though not the equal of Purcell's 'Under This Stone' that follows it. For the most part the songs are given in the arty manner that I associate with the earnest exponents of Early Music, but a more demotic approach is attempted in Ravenscroft's 'Who's the Fool Now?' which is sung in a mangle-wurzels accent, and more so in his 'Give us Once a Drink' which is only just music at all and rendered with much 'coarse' laughter. But in general this is good or goodish music, the best of it (to my ears) being the Dowland numbers, even 'Fair Knacks for Ladies'. The disc ends on its highest musical level with the Dowland and Campion songs, distinguished by the participation of Ian Partridge.
This disc is of intense interest to someone whose knowledge of music of this period is as patchy as mine, and I would think to experts as well. As usual with the low-ticket Apex issues the pamphlet only runs to 2 pages, which one cannot complain about at the price. It is so obviously knowledgeable that I still regret its brevity, but in places it is unintentionally funnier than any of the songs -- how about '...this carnal delight in sexual matters was not the fancy of the lower classes, as might be supposed'? Not supposed by anyone with experience of the hooray-henry class, I can assure you, and what non-carnal delight in sexual matters did the author have in mind? I still found it very informative, and when I read that these songs were sung 'with accompanying gestures' I reflected that a group rendition of 'Nymphs and Shepherds' with actions would get the vocalists ejected from most ale houses these days. Standards in Purcell's or Dowland's time were clearly lower, but the music was a lot better.
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