A pleasing melancholy

Cheyls Consort of Viols, Emma Kirkby soprano, James Akers lute
72:13
BIS-2283 SACD

Like Mary Berry or Judi Dench,  Emma Kirkby has become something of a national treasure, and it is wonderful to hear her in fine voice for these songs by Dowland, Tobias Hume, Robert Jones, John Danyell, and Anthony Holborne. Soon to be celebrating her 70th birthday, she brings a lifetime of early music performance experience to this haunting music. While youthful freshness has been replaced with a more mature vocal quality, she has chosen her repertoire wisely and these readings are technically sound but – more importantly – resonant with wisdom. Filled with memories of Emma Kirkby’s rich and varied career, I found these accounts deeply moving and, indeed, almost unbearably poignant. James Akers provides a beautifully sympathetic lute accompaniment to the voice, while also blending elegantly into the consort. The viols, too, are wonderfully responsive, both as accompanists in the songs and also to one another in the accounts of the Lachrimae Pavans  and the other consort music. This CD is a must for all the many loyal Kirkby fans.

D. James Ross