English Renaissance masques were extravagant, evening-long entertainments compiled of various songs and dances loosely organized around a plot or theme. Little is known about John Maynard (1577-1633), who wrote a set of songs titled The XII Wonders of the World, which forms the framework around which this masque is reconstructed. This version incorporates works by John Dowland, Matthew Locke, Thomas Morley, John Playford, and an exquisite ballad by Richard Edwards, so the quality of the music is consistently high. Although there is no explicit attribution, it can be assumed that the reconstruction was made by or for the Austrian instrumental ensemble Echo du Danube, which performs it here. The group is joined by soprano Miriam Allan, who performs the songs with pure but robust tone and an infectious sense of playfulness. The same spirit informs the instrumental performances, which sparkle with fun and exuberance. Narrator Rob Wyn Jones contributes several selections from Shakespeare plays that have little apparent relevance to the rest of the proceedings. The sound of the SACD is bright and clear, with a good sense of presence.
The Wonders of the World: An English Mosaic Review
by Stephen Eddins