Longing for death, piety and happiness in love
Versatile selection of consort songs from the “Elizabethan Golden Age”, sensitively and interestingly presented by specialists in early music: Rayuela and Andrea Lauren Brown in a witty collaboration.
‘Death and tears, despair, melancholy, worship and piety, but also love and desire, joy, hope and happiness – the themes of life also form the subject of the music sung at that time,’ describes the flutist Martina Joos in the booklet on the CD ‘Made of Melting Snow’ the versatility of English consort music from the Elizabethan era. It is not too easy to make this diversity clear in a single recording. But the instrumentalists of Rayuela, together with the American soprano Andrea Lauren Brown, succeed in an impressive way, both in terms of the choice of works and the interpretation.
In ‘Made of Melting Snow’ – the connection of the title to Queen Elizabeth I and at the time of her reign is made clear in the booklet – the musicians integrate various atmospheres from the heartbreaking complaint about Thomas Tallis’ death to ‘Ye sacred muses’ to the exuberant declaration of love in ‘Diaphenia, like the daffdowndilly’. It is extremely pleasant to interrupt the songs with voice through pure instrumental pieces such as a ‘Fantasia’ from William Byrd’s ‘Psalmes, songs and sonnets’ from 1611, which is placed between two songs from the same work cycle. The musicians also selected some masterpieces from the ‘Consort Song’ repertoire with pieces by composers such as Byrd, Morley and Dowland, but combined them with songs by anonymous composers. The combination of instruments used in the individual pieces also changes constantly, without causing abrupt changes or breaks. This leaves a thematically and musically diverse program in the end.
The musical selection is accompanied by an extremely extensive and informative booklet. The label Olive Music obviously pays attention to a high quality product in all respects. The 25 well-structured and designed pages not only provide information about the performing musicians, but also deal with the historical context and program composition in detail. In addition to the original texts, German translations of the English songs are included in a clear appendix, so that the listener can easily understand the thematic diversity.
But the most important thing is the musical interpretation of the pieces. The musicians obviously paid particular attention to the wealth of ideas and expressiveness in the interpretation of the music. This approach is particularly evident in the pieces with vocals. Above all, the soprano does not strive for a sound that is guided evenly through all registers, but tries to give the interpretation wit and individuality through abrupt changes in voice color. Sometimes, unfortunately, the pure beauty of sound suffers a little, which her voice actually has in abundance. Some tones lose their informative value because they fall out of the overall sound and become narrow or pointed. Nevertheless, Brown generally presents an extremely interesting interpretation in which the different nuances of the text are clearly worked out.
The ensemble Rayuela is at least as colorful and multi-layered, but the sound beauty does not step behind the interpretation at any moment. Above all, the precise interplay of the various instrumentalists makes the recording a special experience, as the musicians know how to react extremely sensitively to one another. The transitions between the different sections appear fluid and natural, without breaking when using other instruments or changing tempos. All participants act as equal partners, regardless of which voice is the main line. All in all, Rayuela maintains a light and elegant style that is supported by a strong but never intrusive foundation through the Theorbo.
The collaboration with the soprano has proven to be extremely coherent and impressive in numerous moments. An example is the Lullaby ‘My little sweet darling’, in which Brown begins the lullaby impressively intimate and vulnerable, and the instruments take up the atmosphere one after the other and spin away. Overall, the compilation ‘Made of Melting Snow’ impresses with its versatility and imagination of interpretation.
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