SUSATO. The Danserye—Twelve Dancest *Morley Consort, t Early Music Consort of London both conducted by David Munrow. HMV HQS1249 (LI 60).
Dances Joe Broken Consort: Mounsier's Almaine (Byrd); Lachrimae Pavan (Dowland); Michill's Galliard (Anonymous); Lute Duet—My Lord Chamberlain's Galliard (Dowland); The Jew's Dance (R. Nicholson); Captain Piper's Pavan and Galliard (Dowland); My Lord of Oxenford's Maske (Byrd); Lavolto (Morley); La Coranto (Morley).
This is a delightful record. Because I have been out of England so much in the last few years, I had not previously had a chance of hearing David Munrow's Early Music Consort, but now I completely understand how they have achieved their great popularity. I suppose it was the New York Pro Musica, under the late Noah Greenberg, who pioneered this type of performance of Renaissance dance-music, bringing to it all the wide variety of instrumental colours that was available to the sixteenth-century musician; since then there have been several records of the same kind from German groups. But no ensemble that I have heard combines scholarly responsibility, technical virtuosity and sheer musicianship to the same extent as this one. They even avoid the common temptation of taking the music too fast, just because it is harmonically simple; here it has plenty of rhythmic life, but is never deprived of its underlying dignity. It is quite clear that a great deal of thought has gone into the planning of this record, in order to contrast the various consort timbres on the Susato side, and then, more generally, to set these more or less homogeneous groups off against the mixed sounds of the broken consort (viols, plucked instruments, 'flute') on the Morley side. There is also a careful attention to contrast between the various dances themselves, though I am not certain whether there is any Renaissance precedent for ending a group with a pavane. The result is a record that does not grow monotonous, even if you listen to it all at a stretch.
There is also, of course, a more profound contrast between the relatively simple, openair dances of Susato and the much more refined and elaborate textures of the dances from Morley's Consort Lessons. This is matched in the recording by a change of acoustic, so that the Morley has an appropriately intimate sound. Mr Munrow mentions in his sleeve-note the problem of Morley's 'flute'—what instrument, and above all, what Octave? His solution, to play the flute part on an alto recorder an octave higher than written seems to me to work perfectly; on this record, at least, it does not result in giving the alto part any undue prominence. The player of the difficult lute part in the Morley arrangements also deserves special congratulations : it is Desmond Dupre, whom it is good to hear again. J.N.
Ref Gramophone Magazine