The BBC television miniseries Wolf Hall, based on the stories of Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell via the Booker Prize-winning novels of Hilary Mantel, has been successful on both sides of the Atlantic, and part of the reason is its musical score. The music has two components, a contemporary original score by Debbie Wiseman and a group of Tudor-era pieces, more or less closely keyed to the action, researched and arranged by Claire van Kampen. It is only the latter you get here, and the way the two scores work together is part of the appeal. However, van Kampen's accomplishment is considerable in itself: she has discarded the official coded language of Renaissance music going back through decades of British film music in favor of the real thing, and to see this done, and see it work, is a marvelous thing. Van Kampen is a music director at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, and she has a knack for joining music and action. The graphics do not let on what the music is. Renaissance music fans will recognize many as the familiar English, French, and Netherlandish dances that formed the center of the English court repertory, and there is one tune (Alas what should I do, track 7) apparently composed by Henry himself. But the album is not aimed at people already familiar with Renaissance music, but at people who've never heard the real thing, and there's a case to be made for not cluttering things up with a lot of unfamiliar names. One could quibble with some of van Kampen's ensemble choices, but nothing is much distorted from state-of-the-art practice. A nice item for anyone who has enjoyed the series or is just looking for an enjoyable half hour of Renaissance dance music: the disc is short, and there was room for more music, either Wiseman's or not.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim