Secret Fires of Love

Cover of Secret Fires of Love album

Daniel Thomson, Terry McKenna, Thomas Leininger, Studio Rhetorica, directed by Robert Toft
65:11
Talbot Productions TP1701

This recital offers a rather lovely programme of English and Italian music from the early 17th century (Dowland, Monteverdi, etc.) and the later decades when ‘the Baroque period’ was in full swing (Purcell, Albinoni, etc.). I rather liked (especially through headphones) the deliberately intimate recorded sound and the restrained performing forces. I doubt the stylistic credentials of some of the continuo playing, on both lute and harpsichord, but it is the vocal style that will excite or appal (or even both) most listeners. I offer a quotation from the blurb:

 ‘[The singer] uses techniques of rhetorical delivery to re-create the natural style of performance listeners from the era would have heard… This requires him to alter the written scores substantially and his dramatic singing combines rhetoric and music in ways that have not been heard since the Renaissance and Baroque eras.

Passing swiftly over these rather extravagant claims which I think many might question, I suppose the singing might be summed up as focussing very much on the word and micro-phrase rather than any sense of a ‘line’ and not all listeners will warm to this and other details – the portamenti, for instance. (I was reminded several times of the Sting/Dowland experiment, which wasn’t actually all bad, and some aspects of Alfred Deller’s performances.) It’s a very intense listen and I’m not absolutely sure that I enjoyed it, but it certainly commanded my attention and I do expect to return to at least small groups of items for pleasure rather than duty.

David Hansell

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