Please wait...

Hyperion Records

CDA66836 - Hark! hark! the lark
CDA66836

Recording details: April 1997
St Paul's Church, New Southgate, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: January 1998
Total duration: 69 minutes 31 seconds

'Performances are uniformly superb and often enhanced by imaginative or comic touches. Full marks to Peter Holman and his team for this delightful entertainment' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The best and most painstaking reconstruction of music from Shakespeare's theatres available on disc' (Sydney Morning Herald)

The English Orpheus
Hark! hark! the lark
Music for Shakespeare's Company
Pavan  [2'50]
Air  [1'13]
Almaine  [1'21]
Coranto  [0'52]
The Fancy  [0'51]
The Virgin  [1'17]

Theatrical life in London during the first half of the seventeenth century was diverse and vibrant. 'The King's Men', as the group of actors for whom Shakespeare wrote most of his plays was known, employed many instrumentalist and singers and this recording is a survey of the works composed (as incidental music or as settings of sections of the plays themselves) by Robert Johnson, composer-in-residence, and his contemporaries between the years 1609 and 1642, when The Civil War brought a premature close to the activities of 'The King's Men'.

The Shakespeare plays represented here are Cymbeline, Macbeth, The Tempest, and The Winter's Tale. Also we have settings from other contemporary plays by such authors as Beaumont and Fletcher, Jonson, Middleton and Webster.


Introduction
The King’s Men, the group of actors for whom William Shakespeare wrote most of his plays, had its origins in a company formed in 1594 under the patronage of the Lord Chamberlain. Shakespeare seems to have established himself in London as an actor and a playwright around 1590, and acquired a share in the company on its formation; he remained a member for the rest of his career in London. He was a member of the syndicate that built the first Globe Theatre on the south bank of the Thames in 1599, and was one of the company’s leaders in 1603 when it came under the patronage of the new king, James I, and was renamed The King’s Men. The Globe was an outdoor ‘wooden O’ theatre, and so the company played only in the summer until 1608/9 when it acquired the lease of the indoor Blackfriars Theatre, which enabled it to play all the year round, using artificial light and elaborate music.

Until The King’s Men acquired the Blackfriars Theatre, Shakespeare worked in a theatrical tradition that needed little or no sophisticated music. In Elizabethan times instrumentalists seem to have had no fixed position in the theatre, and their contribution to his early plays was limited largely to ‘flourishes’, ‘sennets’, ‘tuckets’ and ‘alarums’. But after 1609 The King’s Men drew on the alternative and much more musical tradition of choirboy plays, performed by troupes of musical boys from the Chapel Royal or other choirs in the London area. They inherited the Blackfriars Theatre from a choirboy company, seem to have taken some of its former actors into their company, began to employ a resident group of instrumentalists, and started to use the services of an established composer to write songs and other vocal music. Thus only Shakespeare’s last plays, Cymbeline (?1609), The Winter’s Tale (?1610) and The Tempest (1611), have specially-composed songs. They began a tradition that was continued by the composers and singers of The King’s Men until the beginning of the Civil War in 1642; this recording is a survey of their rich repertory.

The King’s Men were fortunate in that their resident composer from 1609 until about 1630 was the court lutenist Robert Johnson, one of the greatest song composers of the time. The only other musician to contribute a significant number of songs to the company’s plays during this period was the actor-singer John Wilson, his probable pupil. Johnson based his song style on the lute-song idiom established by John Dowland, but brought it up to date and modified it to suit the highly-charged atmosphere of Jacobean drama. A few of his songs, such as ‘Where the bee sucks’ and ‘Tell me, dearest’, use the idiom and structure of contemporary dance music, though most of them are in grave duple time and combine a declamatory melodic line, often determined more by speech patterns than by the demands of melodic coherence, with a simple chordal accompaniment. Johnson and his contemporaries abandoned written-out tablature lute parts in favour of simple unfigured bass lines, though they continued to use lutes and theorboes as the main accompaniment instruments.

A number of Johnson’s declamatory songs have special effects that respond to the situations in the parent plays. One of the most striking, ‘Oh, let us howl’, is part of a masque of madmen in Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi who torment the duchess while ostensibly soothing her melancholy. Johnson illustrates the situation with wonderfully sinister chromatic slides on the word ‘howl’. ‘Care-charming sleep’, from Fletcher’s Valentinian, was written for a similar situation: it is sung as the evil emperor lies dying of poison. Another side of Johnson can be heard in ‘Arm, arm! the scouts are coming in’ from Fletcher’s The Mad Lover. Memnon, the mad lover, is soothed by a vivid account of one of his former battles, illustrated by rapid repeated notes and fanfares; we inevitably think of Monteverdi, but the song almost certainly predates the stile concitato. ‘’Tis late and cold’, from Beaumont and Fletcher’s The Lover’s Progress, is sung by the ghost of a jovial innkeeper and one of the few songs of the period written specifically for a bass voice.

It is unfortunate that Johnson never published a collection of his songs, for most of them have only come down to us in poor manuscript versions and it is sometimes impossible to be sure of his exact intentions. We can be fairly sure, for instance, that Johnson would have wanted his songs sung with florid ornamentation, though there is no way of knowing whether any of the written-out examples that survive are his work. For this reason we have drawn on the various ornamented versions of his songs without feeling the need to keep to any one of them exactly. Another problem is that the domestic manuscripts that preserve the play-songs of the period almost never include choruses, and usually only preserve dialogues in garbled versions for a single voice.

‘Full fathom five’ is sung by Ariel in Act I, Scene 2 of The Tempest in the guise of a water nymph; in reconstructing the lost chorus of distant spirits that echoes him I have drawn on John Wilson’s part-song arrangement of the song, published in his Cheerful Ayres (Oxford, 1660). I have also tried to devise a multi-voice version of ‘Come away, Hecate’ that corresponds as much as possible to the text in Act III, Scene 5 of Macbeth, one of the passages borrowed at an early stage from Thomas Middleton’s The Witch. Following seventeenth-century tradition, the role of Hecate, the queen of the witches, is taken by a man. ‘Get you hence’ is a setting of the ‘merry ballad’ sung by Autolycus, Mopsa and Dorcas in Act IV, Scene 4 of The Winter’s Tale. In the play Autolycus tells Mopsa that it ‘goes to the tune of ‘Two maids wooing a man’’, but Johnson gave it a declamatory setting too complex to be mistaken for a ballad tune.

John Wilson was a less accomplished composer than Robert Johnson, though he was capable of producing attractive songs in a simple ballad-like style, such as his affecting setting of ‘A bonny, bonny bird I have’, a lament for a sparrow. The setting of ‘The blushing rose’, a duet from Massinger’s The Picture, is also an odd mixture of charm and clumsiness, and may therefore be by Wilson. The ornamented version of Wilson’s ‘Take, O take those lips away’ comes from British Library, Add.MS11608, and is perhaps by John Hilton, the compiler of the manuscript. Hilton’s own setting of ‘Hence, all ye vain delights’ is a remarkable exploration of melancholy, that most fashionable ailment of early seventeenth-century England.

The court composer William Lawes seems to have composed most of the songs for King’s Men plays in the 1630s, though his suave style was sometimes at odds with the dramatic situations in the plays. Nevertheless, he wrote fine declamatory settings of Suckling’s ‘Why so pale and wan, fond lover?’ and Denham’s famous ‘Somnus, the humble god’, and was not above setting a rumbustious drinking song, ‘A health to the northern lass’. His setting of ‘The cats, as other creatures do’, a remarkable anticipation of the piece commonly attributed to Rossini, may have been written for a lost play produced in the 1630s, though its text seems to be an allegory of London personalities at that time.

Some of the instrumental music recorded here is connected to particular plays performed by The King’s Men, such as the dance tune ‘The Tempest’ and ‘The Witches’, perhaps written by Robert Johnson for The Tempest and Macbeth. I have provided them with inner parts in the four-part ‘string quartet’ idiom popularized by Thomas Simpson in his Taffel-Consort (Hamburg, 1621); the collection includes his delightful arrangement of an Almand by Robert Taylor, a member of The London Waits from 1620 until his death in 1637. The London Waits seem to have provided The King’s Men with many of their instrumentalists in the 1620s and 30s, including the composer Simon Ives (a member from 1637), who made a delightful collection of dances in the ‘string quartet’ format. It looks as if Ives made them for the instrumentalists at the Blackfriars Theatre, particularly since the corant by the Puritan lawyer Bulstrode Whitelocke is known to have been written for them, as he recorded in his memoirs: ‘I was so conversant with the musitians, & so willing to gaine their favour, especially att this time [1634], that I composed an aeir my selfe, with the assistance of Mr Simon Ives, and called it Whitelockes Coranto, which being cried up, was first played publiquely by the Blacke fryars Musicke.’ He went on to record that they struck it up every time he went to the theatre, and added proudly: ‘it was so often called for that they would have it played twice and thrice in an afternoon.’

This recording is dedicated to the memory of Robert Spencer, who died while it was being produced. He loved English seventeenth-century song, and did more than anyone else to advance our knowledge of this rewarding repertory and the people who created it.

Peter Holman © 1997


Other albums in this series
'Purcell's London' (CDA66108)
Purcell's London
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66108  Archive Service  
'Philips: Consort Music' (CDA66240)
Philips: Consort Music
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66240  Archive Service  
'Boyce: Solomon' (CDA66378)
Boyce: Solomon
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66378  Archive Service  
'Gibbons & Lupo: Music for Prince Charles' (CDA66395)
Gibbons & Lupo: Music for Prince Charles
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66395  Archive Service  
'An Englishman Abroad' (CDA66435)
An Englishman Abroad
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66435  Archive Service  
'Bond: Six Concertos in seven parts' (CDA66467)
Bond: Six Concertos in seven parts
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66467  Archive Service  
'O tuneful voice' (CDA66497)
O tuneful voice
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66497  Archive Service  
'Roseingrave: Keyboard Music' (CDA66564)
Roseingrave: Keyboard Music
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66564  Archive Service  
'Odes on the death of Henry Purcell' (CDA66578)
Odes on the death of Henry Purcell
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66578  Archive Service   Download currently discounted
'English 18th-century Violin Sonatas' (CDA66583)
English 18th-century Violin Sonatas
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66583  Archive Service  
'Jenkins: Late Consort Music' (CDA66604)
Jenkins: Late Consort Music
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66604  Archive Service  
'Dibdin: Ephesian Matron, Brickdust Man & Grenadier' (CDA66608)
Dibdin: Ephesian Matron, Brickdust Man & Grenadier
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66608  Archive Service  
'Blow: Fairest Work of happy Nature' (CDA66646)
Blow: Fairest Work of happy Nature
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66646  Archive Service  
'Blow: Awake my lyre' (CDA66658)
Blow: Awake my lyre
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66658  Archive Service   Download currently discounted
'Four and Twenty Fiddlers' (CDA66667)
Four and Twenty Fiddlers
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66667  Archive Service  
'Enchanting Harmonist' (CDA66698)
Enchanting Harmonist
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66698  Archive Service   Download currently discounted
'Philips: Keyboard Music' (CDA66734)
Philips: Keyboard Music
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66734  Archive Service   Download currently discounted
'The Romantic Music' (CDA66740)
The Romantic Music
Buy by post £5.25 CDA66740  Please, someone, buy me …   Download currently discounted
'Lampe: Pyramus and Thisbe' (CDA66759)
Lampe: Pyramus and Thisbe
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66759  Archive Service  
'The String Quartet in Eighteenth-Century England' (CDA66780)
The String Quartet in Eighteenth-Century England
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66780  Archive Service  
'A High-Priz'd Noise' (CDA66806)
A High-Priz'd Noise
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66806  Archive Service  
'Musique of Violenze' (CDA66929)
Musique of Violenze
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66929  Archive Service  
'Boyce: Peleus and Thetis & other theatre music' (CDA66935)
Boyce: Peleus and Thetis & other theatre music
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66935  Archive Service  
'Vital Spark of Heav'nly Flame' (CDA67020)
Vital Spark of Heav'nly Flame
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA67020  Archive Service   Download currently discounted
'The Noble Bass Viol' (CDA67088)
The Noble Bass Viol
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA67088  Archive Service  
'Fairest Isle' (CDA67115)
Fairest Isle
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA67115  Archive Service  
'Haydn and his English Friends' (CDA67150)
Haydn and his English Friends
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA67150  Archive Service   Download currently discounted
'Nativity' (CDA67443)
Nativity
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67443 
'Orpheus with his lute' (CDA67450)
Orpheus with his lute
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67450 
'Blow: Anthems' (CDD22055)
Blow: Anthems
Buy by post £10.50 CDD22055  2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1)  
'Avison: Concerti Grossi' (CDD22060)
Avison: Concerti Grossi
Buy by post £10.50 CDD22060  2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1)  
'Boyce: Trio Sonatas' (CDD22063)
Boyce: Trio Sonatas
Buy by post £10.50 CDD22063  2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1)  
'Arne: Artaxerxes' (CDD22073)
Arne: Artaxerxes
Buy by post £10.50 CDD22073  2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1)  
'Locke: Anthems, Motets and Ceremonial Music' (CDH55250)
Locke: Anthems, Motets and Ceremonial Music
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55250  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Arne: Six Favourite Concertos' (CDH55251)
Arne: Six Favourite Concertos
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55251  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Croft: Te Deum & Burial Service' (CDH55252)
Croft: Te Deum & Burial Service
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55252  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Linley: A Lyric Ode on the Fairies, Aerial Beings and Witches of Shakespeare' (CDH55253)
Linley: A Lyric Ode on the Fairies, Aerial Beings and Witches of Shakespeare
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55253  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Philips: Motets' (CDH55254)
Philips: Motets
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55254  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Locke: The Broken Consort' (CDH55255)
Locke: The Broken Consort
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55255  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Linley: Cantatas & Theatre Music' (CDH55256)
Linley: Cantatas & Theatre Music
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55256  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Blow & Draghi: Odes for St Cecilia' (CDH55257)
Blow & Draghi: Odes for St Cecilia
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55257  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Sound the Trumpet' (CDH55258)
Sound the Trumpet
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDH55258  Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service  
'Weelkes: Anthems' (CDH55259)
Weelkes: Anthems
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55259  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'English Classical Violin Concertos' (CDH55260)
English Classical Violin Concertos
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDH55260  Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service  
'Linley: The Song of Moses & Let God arise' (CDH55302)
Linley: The Song of Moses & Let God arise
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55302  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'While shepherds watched' (CDH55325)
While shepherds watched
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDH55325  Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service  
'English 18th-century Keyboard Concertos' (CDH55341)
English 18th-century Keyboard Concertos
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55341  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Stanley: Six Concertos in seven parts' (CDH55361)
Stanley: Six Concertos in seven parts
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55361  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
   English   Français   Deutsch