Flow my tears: Songs for lute, viol and voice

Iestyn Davies cT, Thomas Dunford lute, Jonathan Manson viol
76:38
Wigmore Hall Live WHLive0074
Music by Campion, Danyel, Dowland, Hume, Johnson & Muhly

This is a recording of a concert from July 2013; this time it’s lute songs, which Davies sings beautifully and intelligently, as ever. I’m not going to bang on about countertenors and downward- transposed lute songs, and whether or not this a historical practice, yet again. Just enjoy this for what it is. Very fine singing and playing, all the more amazing for having been recorded live. Davies’ intonation and word colouring is exemplary in this context, and there are few countertenors who would be brave, or good enough, let’s be frank, to contemplate issuing live recordings. Singing in projected falsetto is very exposing of the slightest flaw – yet Davies does not seem to have any! There is one substantial modern piece, Mulhy’s cantata ‘Old Bones’, a setting of texts from the media relating to the discovery of the remains of Richard III in 2012. This is an excellent addition to the repertoire, taking it’s place besides Fricker’s ‘Tomb of St. Eulalia’ written for Deller in the 1950s.

Quibble: The sleeve notes attempt to comment on the beginning of the poem attributed to the Earl of Essex: ‘Can she excuse my wrongs’, adding that ‘…she (Elizabeth 1) could not, and beheaded him’. The author (understandably) does not realise that Dowland’s/Essex’s line actually means: ‘the wrongs that she has done to me’, and not what he did or said about her. Although, staging a rebellion to depose her was what did for him in the end, as we all know.

Davies is the best (and busiest) British countertenor around, and we should celebrate that, because good un’s don’t come around that often!

David Hill