Englishman in Tyrol

Viol music by William Young
Enemble Art d’Echo, Juliane Laake
Querstand VKJK 2003

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One of the most celebrated gambists in his own lifetime and for some time after, the reputation of William Young has since declined into complete obscurity. Spending his life at the court of Ferdinand Karl, Archduke of Innsbruck, Young had probably travelled with his employer from the Netherlands, where he was previously governor, having perhaps sought asylum there earlier in the 17th century from Cromwellian England, where his Catholicism would have made life dangerous. His quirky music for strings, mainly viols, while not as eccentric as that of Tobias Hume, recalls the nonconformity of that itinerant Scotsman – is it possible that the absence of any trace of Young in England may suggest that he too might have been a Scotsman? At any rate, Young proved indispensable at the Tyrolean court, taking centre stage at several large-scale celebrations. The present CD with its excellent programme note and varied and beautifully played programme, presenting a cross-section of Young’s work and peppered with world premier recordings, does much to restore this remarkable musician’s reputation. But what is it about musicians left to their own devices in recording studios? This CD has a bonus track of free improvisation at the end, which turns out to be a riff on Sting’s ‘Englishman in New York’, but which sadly adds nothing to the project. Worse still, was the oddly ungrammatical title substituted for the more natural ‘An Englishman in the Tyrol’ simply to facilitate this bit of self-indulgence? I forgive them, because the rest of the CD and its presentation are so good.

D. James Ross

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