Songs, Dances and Fancies for Shakespeare
The Baltimore Consort
Sono luminus DSL 92234
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It really is quite surprising that no music contemporary with Shakespeare’s plays which can be directly associated with them has survived, but this has not prevented musicians from compiling programmes based on music from the playwright’s lifetime which ‘relate’ to his plays or from just after his lifetime which reference the plays. There are some old friends here, played with imagination and sensitivity by the Baltimore Consort. They are at their most convincing when creatively riffing on some of the more traditional related material, but I found the same shortcomings as with another recent CD by the revived Baltimore Consort. Compared to the wonderful spontaneity of the vintage Baltimore recordings, the tempi here seem a bit ponderous, the ‘riffing’ a little contrived. Sadly, this may just come down to the change in personnel, and the departure of a couple of truly remarkable musicians. Even in ‘the golden days’, the group’s account of vocal music seemed its Achilles heel, and this still seems to be the case. Soprano Danielle Svonavec has a pleasantly pure voice and ornaments delicately and idiomatically, but there is something mannered and laboured about her pronunciation and presentation of the texts which makes the songs sound a little twee. I can’t help feeling that in my eyes these new Baltimore recordings suffer largely from comparison with the group’s own remarkable back-catalogue, which is possibly a little unfair, and it could be that listeners coming fresh to these recordings will be perfectly happy and, indeed, charmed by the group’s undoubted affinity with and creative approach to this repertoire. The playing and singing are technically impeccable and the recording admirably vivid.
D. James Ross