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Emma Kirkby continues to amaze as much as – or more than – at any other time in her long and distinguished career. Has her art ever been more daring, emotionally and expressively, than it is now? And this without ever threatening the boundaries of good taste … her wealth of experience guarantees a total understanding of how to bring alive simply what’s there in the notes, in this extraordinary music. No more, no less. Try anything on this album, whether by Dowland or his followers in the melancholic tradition such as Tobias Hume (‘What greater grief’) or John Danyel (‘Eyes, look no more’ and ‘If I could shut the gate against my thoughts’). What impresses as much as anything is the impact the rich lower register of the voice contributes to things.

The notion of interleaving the individual movements of the legendary Lachrimae Pavans with the songs was a great call, not least because each element grants space to the other. Yes, this a melancholic, one-paced collection with gloom always hovering. But find yourself an uninterrupted 72’13”, a peaceful space in which to listen, and you’ll be captivated.

The Chelys Consort continues mightily to impress following their Christopher Simpson album for BIS. One of the strengths of their playing is that they neither under- nor over-state; they just ‘state’ – in the most natural and unaffected fashion. They’re a perfect foil for Kirkby’s expressive gifts. The balance of instruments (not forgetting the ever-impressive lutenist James Akers) is immaculate, the sense of flow in the Pavans always finely judged. All the above, I should add, is set off by the sensitive capturing of the fine acoustic of Girton College Chapel in Cambridge by vastly experienced sound engineer, Simon Eadon.

More, please, from this combination.

Andrew Green Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2017 - ©Rhinegold Publishing