Here's a superb collection of English madrigals and other pieces from the golden age of English music, all (or almost all) composed on a single occasion, the death of Henry Stuart, Prince of Wales and heir to the throne, in 1612. That sad event came about after the prince took a swim in the Thames river, as filthy then as now (or possibly even worse); he contracted what is thought to have been typhoid fever and expired. Henry was a popular monarch-in-waiting, and his death stirred large musical and literary outpourings; the music recorded here does not exhaust the possible selections. Recordings of madrigals and lute songs usually alternate sad and happy music, but here all the pieces are necessarily of a single emotional tenor. This does not mean, however, that the program falls into sameness. Indeed, for lovers of English music of this period part of the appeal is to hear the diverse responses of the composers involved to the same event; stately biblical settings, agonized chromaticism, and simple, somber, almost Spanish-sounding polyphony are all deployed. Another attraction is the variety of composers represented. There are a few well-known pieces here, like Thomas Weelkes' When David Heard, but other composers are known only from recordings here and there, such as Robert Ramsey (who contributes another setting of the David-Absalom text, for which an interesting gay subtext is promulgated in the booklet notes), Thomas Ford, William Cranford, and John Coprario, whose real name was Cooper but who was apparently an early master of the art of hype. The eight-member British group Gallicantus sings with remarkable clarity and emotional control in a superb disc of English Renaissance vocal music that's both moving and instructive in terms of the deeper aesthetic currents of the time. Texts are in English only, except that the sole Latin work is also given in English text translation.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Songs of Mourning|
|Songs of Mourning|