The Organ


Music for Shakespeare from Purcell to Arne
Catherine Bott, soprano
The Parley of Instruments with Peter Holman, director

I’m sure that if it wasn’t for the pioneering series of recordings named The English Orpheus we would find ourselves less the richer for the discoveries this series has brought to our notions of English musical heritage. This is probably far more important than any other series, for if these recordings had not appeared, perhaps the long held myth that Purcell, Handel or Arne were the only pre-nineteenth century composers in our musical history as a whole, it might still hold true!

Peter Holman has fed our minds with some wondrous recordings – this being his fiftieth – which have told us more about our own musical gift and just how prolific our homebred composers were. A remark such as England being the ‘land without music’ now seems an extraordinary charge.

So, as to compound this enlightenment, Holman, with his efficacious band The Parley of Instruments, have seen fit to draw upon many lesser-known composers who have contributed much to the English music scene. Putting quill’s to manuscript seems to have been an easy occupation as the samples of delightful music heard here for the theatre, accompanying the rise in Shakespearean performances that flooded the stage after the restoration from the late seventeenth century through to the early nineteenth, attest.

The inventiveness is astonishing and would no doubt have captivated the audiences of the time. The musing on Full Fathom Five by John Christopher Smith or Thomas Chilcott’s Orpheus with his lute accompanied by flute are simply sublime. The voice of Catherine Bott is as liquid as any libation to the gods, while the quality of Rachel Brown’s deliciously sonorous wooden flute wafts the vocal interpretations like angel’s wings.

Seventeen vocal numbers part fill this disc, ending with Thomas Arne’s Where the bee sucks, there lurk I, which will thoroughly delight the listener. As, too, will Robert Woodcock’s engaging Concerto No 9 in E minor for flute with its obvious Italianate dressing, and not forgetting Jeremiah Clarke’s Overture to Titus Andronicus, with an attendant Minuet, that firmly puts us into late seventeenth century thinking. An absolute must for any one with taste!