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C 9401 WALTER PORTER: MADRIGALES AND AYRES, 1632 [9,99 Euros]

It is impressive when a group capable of such polished consort singing as Rooley’s can split up to provide solo interpretations of this quality (Gramphone, UK)  

On Walter Porter’s Madrigales and Ayres, 1632:

Anthony Rooley: It is so typical of the English to have ignored almost completely the only native musician known to have studied with Claudio Monteverdi. Perhaps only two or three pieces from Porter’s collection have been made available in modern editions until very recently, the rest was condemned to oblivion. And yet the English manner here approaches most directly that of the late mannerist flowering of the Italian. No invidious comparison between Porter and Monteverdi needs to be made, for this is a uniquely English voice, yet one that has clearly benefited from a close association with Italian sensuality. For the first time the greater part of the collection can now be heard (rather than studied on paper), and the wit, charm, variety and craftsmanship can be enjoyed in their own right. For anyone with a culturally outward-bound spirit, there is much to discover here.

In his introduction Porter clearly acknowledges the Italian influence on his work, but what is so astonishing about this collection is the remarkable variety of forms and styles it contains: we find a verse anthem in which the florid vocal lines of Caccini and Monteverdi appear for the first time in an English anthem (O praise the Lord [1]), an elaborate solo aria with chorus (Farewell once my delight [11]), duets, trios, madrigals in a conservative style, madrigals with dialogue, and continuo madrigals for two, three and five voices. In place of the equal-voiced polyphony of the English madrigal school we find a more treble-dominated style, and in his harmonies Porter avoids the more daring experiments of Italians like Gesualdo. A clear sense of tonality emerges. Instrumentally, the violins move frequently in parallel thirds in the Monteverdian manner over an independent bass line. In short, he has absorbed the latest Italian fashions while at the same time preserving his English identity.

Porter reveals his English background in his response to the English language, being sensitive to vowels, diphthongs and English multiple consonants (as in Sitting once rapt with delight [4], and the skittish Like the rash and giddy fly [18]), and indulges in the occasional ‘word-painting’ (as in ‘let him to hell to howl’, in Who hath a human soul [3]). The alternation of passages for solo voice and chorus in many of the pieces is a typical English procedure.

The literary themes in the collection are as varied as the musical styles represented. There are pastoral tales (I saw fair Cloris [17]), philosophical reflections on life (End now my life [10]), songs of love (Young Thyrsis lay [15]) and songs of mourning, of which the finest example – it was also probably the first song in the collection to be written – is Wake, sorrow, wake! [19], an elegy on the death of Lady Arabella Stewart who died in 1615..

How can we sum up his achievements? Was he merely an imitator, a borrower of other men’s ideas, or a composer with a mind of his own? In an age of musical uncertainty he pointed English music in a new direction. He grafted the new styles and techniques of Italian music on to the old stem of the English madrigal tradition. Although he was no English Monteverdi, his best pieces stand up well alongside the work of his illustrious predecessor. He is an English Orpheus seeking his Euridice in a foreign land. His music is worthy of our attention.

Once again, The Consort of Musicke offers us glorious performances, both in the purely vocal and in the instrumental contributions. Vocally, it is impressive when a group capable of such polished consort singing as Rooley’s can split up to provide solo interpretations of this quality, interpretations which take each piece seriously and look for whatever strengths it may contain, although when you look at the list of their members you can understand why. Likewise, the instrumental renditions of both the violins and the rich basso continuo is precise, beautiful and transparent, finely recreating these unknown jewels of the best English music. A major discovery that no one should miss….

Walter Porter: Madrigales and Ayres, 1632

  • The Consort of Musicke – director: Anthony Rooley

    Emma Kirkby, Evelyn Tubb
    , sopranos

    Mary Nichols, alto

    Andrew King, Joseph Cornwell, tenors

    Richard Wistreich, bass

    Catherine Mackintosh, Susan Carpenter-Jacobs, baroque violin

    Alison Crum, bass viol

    Alan Wilson, harpsichord and chamber organ

    Jakob Lindberg, lute

    Anthony Rooley, lute and direction

Additional informations

  • Total time total 76:01

    Booklet
    with liner notes by Clive Walkley and footnotes by José Carlos Cabello

    Recording Forde Abbey, Dorset (UK), 1983

    Engineering and digital edition Dr Thomas Gallia & Paul Dery (Sonart Milano)

    Producer Klaus L Neumann (WDR)

    Executive producer Klaus L Neumann (WDR)

    Source & Edition Clive Walkley (from the edition printed in London by William Stansby in 1632, in the British Library

    Series artistic producer Anthony Rooley

    Executive production for this edition, design and booklet coordinator José Carlos Cabello

    Cover Daniel Mytens, “King Charles I” (1631), National Portrait Gallery, London. All rights reserved.
    ✋ Please adjust first the VOLUME control on the SPEAKER ⇓ before playing ▶

    O Praise the Lord
    Tis but a frown
    Old poets that in Cupid’s hand
    Wake, sorrow, wake!
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