Clear or cloudy: Purcell, Dowland, Hume

Benno Schachtner, Axel Wolf, Jakob Rattlinger, Andreas Küppers
59:04
Accent ACC24333

This delightful recital CD recorded in the Baroque splendour of the library of Roggenburg Abbey in Bavaria is a showcase for the lovely voice and expressive musicality of male alto Benno Schachtner. Choosing the finest solo songs of the 17th century by the English composers Purcell, Dowland, Croft, Blow, Robert Johnson and token Scotsman Tobias Hume, Schachtner and his virtuoso continuo ensemble give exquisite and dramatic accounts which speak of deep study and considerable familiarity with this fine repertoire. At no point does Schachtner’s technique sound remotely stretched; indeed, we are blissfully unaware of technical considerations throughout this recording.

[Video is in German, without sub-titles]

More than this, the performers have clearly researched their material closely and alongside two energetic Hume gamba solos, the same composer’s Fain would I change that note  is performed by voice and gamba alone, as if the composer himself were performing it! Further elegant solos on the harpsichord and lute provide variety, but actually I could have listened to Schachtner’s expressive voice until the cows came home. Just as the group finish the song which gives the CD its title, Dowland’s Cleare or cloudie, and significantly just before they start Purcell’s Fly swift ye hours, the microphones pick up the plaintive call of a great tit in the background – so glad they left that in!

D. James Ross