Strike the Viol – Ayres & Divisions by Jenkins, Lawes, Locke…

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This is the second recommendation in a row for a title from Flora Records, a tiny Belgium label specializing in music from the first half of the 17th century. This period of time has been the label's focus recently anyway, for the past half dozen or so releases. Strike the Viol is a program of consort music from the great English tradition of Jenkins, Lawes and Locke - a high point in the history of English classical music. There are also short pieces here by John Coperario, Daniel Norcombe and Christopher Simpson as well as some anonymous works.

If you've listened to consort music from this period before, you know that there is a melancholy air, almost a sadness that permeates it, which is part of its beauty. Three musicians are performing: Philippe Pierlot and Rainer Zipperling both play bass viol, and Giovanna Pessi plays harp. The period instruments sound wonderful, rich and full, and Flora has done a very fine job with the recorded sound. The previous Flora album recommended on E.A., Amarante, is a collection of aire de cour from the same time, but from France. It is sung beautifully by soprano Céline Scheen and has a very similar musical atmosphere as is heard here. They are both great. It just depends on how you like your melancholy served, sung or bowed?