Emma Kirkby / Jakob Lindberg

Orpheus in England: Dowland & Purcell

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The Orpheus in England title of this release refers to the fact that both John Dowland and Henry Purcell were honored with the "Orpheus" designation after their deaths, nearly 100 years apart. The booklet for this Swedish release even comes with an anonymous poem telling the deceased Purcell to "Touch but thy Lyre, the Stones will come and dance themselves into a Tomb." The unusual idea of connecting the two composers, who shared a common tendency toward a mixture of melancholy and daring harmonic thinking, works well, and there are many lovely moments here. Some come from lutenist Jakob Lindberg, who delivers limpid readings of some Dowland standards and arranges a group of Purcell keyboard pieces for lute. This neither damages the music, nor would have seemed odd to a household musician of Purcell's time, and the lute reveals the unusual voicings in little pieces like Lilliburlero and A New Scotch Tune (tracks 23-24). The star of the show is veteran British early music soprano Emma Kirkby, who for her legion of British fans can do no wrong. She's still got it as she enters her seventh decade in terms of building up a profound dramatic structure in a serious piece; Dowland's In darkness let me dwell (track 14) and Purcell's From silent shades or Bess of Bedlam (track 27) are extremely compelling. In general she does very well with the Purcell pieces, mostly dramatic excerpts from stage works. In the simpler Dowland lute songs her voice sounds a bit thick, but she still has star quality to burn. The biggest complaint is not with either of the performers, but with BIS' sound, recorded in a Swedish church that swallows up the music and overemphasizes instrument noise from Lindberg's tremendously interesting lute from the year 1590, perhaps the oldest lute in existence with its original soundboard. Recommended for Kirkby fans.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
A Pilgrimes Solace
1 3:43
The Third and Last Booke of Songs or Aires
2 2:59
The First Booke of Songs or Ayres
3 4:14
4 1:09
5 1:55
The Second Booke of Songs or Ayres
6 2:35
The Third and Last Booke of Songs or Aires
7 2:37
The First Booke of Songs or Ayres
8 2:45
9 5:10
10 1:28
A Pilgrimes Solace
11 2:34
12 4:17
The Second Booke of Songs or Ayres
13 2:58
14 3:50
The Indian Queen
15 1:53
16 2:42
Dido and Aeneas
17 1:36
18 1:16
19 1:00
Bonduca or The British Heroine
20 5:10
21 2:38
22 2:49
23 0:50
Musick's Handmaid, Part 2
24 1:28
25 0:48
26 2:25
27 4:00
28 4:16
blue highlight denotes track pick