The Soule of Heaven

Pavans and Almaines by Alfonso Ferrabosco I & II
B-Five Recorder Consort | Sofie Vanden Eynde lute
Coviello Classics COV92108

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This lovely CD presents a cross-section of the consort music Alfonso Ferrabosco, father and son, as it might have been heard at the Court of Elizabeth, and later that of James I, played by the five-part recorder consort established in 1609 by the Bassano brothers. The title of the CD comes from the epithet thought up for Ferabosco II’s music by that master of epithets, Ben Jonson. Constantly buffeted by complications of their catholic faith, it is amazing that both Ferraboscos managed to produce such sublime music. It is played with a simply awesome blend, luminous tone and superb musicality by the B-Five Consort and their lutanist, Sofie Vanden Eynde, who contributes an occasional lute solo to the proceedings. Further variety is provided by the consort occasionally migrating up through the smaller recorders to alter entirely the character of the music they are playing. The clinching virtue of this charming CD is the superbly idiomatic virtuosic ornamentation which pervades these performances. Lovely repertoire and stunning performances – so what is not to enjoy about this production? Well, the programme notes. A deeply irrelevant of piece of creative writing by Annemarie Peeters embodying the headings of the pieces in the programme purports to illuminate, but actually just annoyed me – I think I would have been even more annoyed by this stupid squandering of an opportunity to inform if I hadn’t been soothed by the lovely playing. Fortunately a brief biographical sketch of the two Ferraboscos’ lives almost saves the day, although this could have been expanded, with an explanation of the music, into a very presentable programme note. I can’t be the only one driven to distraction by this new fashion of replacing ‘proper’ programme notes with spacey effusions that have little or nothing to do with the matter in hand? Get in a musicologist to write your programme note, and if you’re lucky then you would have something to match the superlative quality of this recording!

D. James Ross

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