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Until about 1970 every English child learned a repertory of 'national songs' at school. It included traditional songs from Scotland, Wales and Ireland, but the bulk of them consisted of English popular songs from the 'long eighteenth century'—roughly from the Glorious Revolution of 1688 to the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. The repertory has often been thought of as 'folk music', but in fact it is quite different in character from the genuine folk songs collected in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by Cecil Sharp, Percy Grainger and their associates. Despite the fact that they tend to deal with rural life, most of them are by professional 'art' composers working in London, and were written for the theatres or the pleasure gardens. Like many popular songs written more recently, they offer a nostalgic, urban evocation of the countryside, though they are none the worse for that. For this recording Peter Holman has mostly chosen pieces that can be traced back to an original setting by a named composer, though two of the beautiful settings of Scottish songs that J C Bach made in London in the 1770s have been included.
The most obvious way in which the developing sense of British national identity was celebrated in the repertory was through overtly patriotic songs such as Fairest Isle and Rule, Britannia, both of which can be heard here.
With many well-known songs, and sleeve notes which trace their source, this disc is sure to illuminate all!
It is unfortunate that this fine repertory, much of it over two centuries old, suddenly fell out of the public memory in the early 1970s; like the parallel repertory of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English hymns, it is largely a closed book to my own children, now in their twenties, and their friends. I suspect that the words of many of the songs had begun to embarrass by their frank patriotism and their politically incorrect sexual attitudes, and the music was overtaken by modern pop music. However, in recent years historians such as Linda Collee have begun to reassess the nature of British or English identity, and have recognised that the repertory of national songs played an important role in establishing and defining that identity in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries; see her important book Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 (London, 1992). In this spirit I offer this recording as a contribution to this reassessment, in the hope that it will play a part in rekindling interest in an important aspect of our national musical heritage. I would like to thank Jeremy Barlow, a pioneer researcher in the field, for his generous help and advice.
The most obvious way in which the developing sense of British national identity was celebrated in the repertory was through overtly patriotic songs such as Fairest isle, all isles excelling and Rule, Britannia. They both come from stage works that explore early episodes from British history: John Dryden’s semi-opera King Arthur (1691) and James Thomson’s masque Alfred (1740) respectively. Fairest Isle, Purcell’s most memorable minuet song, comes from a masque conjured by Merlin at the end of the play to demonstrate to the victorious King Arthur how Britons and Saxons will eventually become a prosperous, unified nation. Rule, Britannia, the ‘Grand ode in honour of Great Britain’, has a similar theme; it comes at the end of the play and was sung to Alfred, newly victorious over the Danes. Those who only know the corrupt version performed annually at the BBC Promenade Concerts will be surprised and delighted by Arne’s original, published in full score in 1742, with its charming echoes and its simple yet highly effective orchestration.
The version of The British Grenadiers recorded here was published in about 1770, and may well be the original, though the first half of the tune is similar to several sixteenth- and seventeenth-century tunes, and the references to ‘fusees’ and ‘looped clothes’ seem to refer to the equipment of grenadiers from around 1700 rather than the late eighteenth century. The fine arrangement in the Handelian idiom was printed in short score, with three-part choral writing similar to much parish church music of the period. The writing suggests the presence of trumpets and drums, which I have taken the liberty of adding.
Another less direct way of celebrating national identity was to place a love-story in a picturesque British rural setting. The most famous song of this type is James Hook’s The Lass of Richmond Hill, published in 1789 and said to have been sung by James Incledon (1763-1829) at Vauxhall Gardens. Its delightful orchestral setting features viola obbligato with pairs of flutes and horns supported by pizzicato violins and basses. J C Bach’s settings of The Broom of Cowdenknowes and Farewell to Lochaber also place love-stories in specific rural settings, and have beautifully conceived accompaniments for two flutes, two violins and continuo. They seem to have been written for the castrato Giusto Ferdinando Tenducci to sing in London concerts in the 1770s.
’Twas within a furlong of Edinboro’ town was often taken for a genuine Scottish song in the eighteenth century, but was actually written by Purcell or Jeremiah Clarke (there are conflicting attributions in contemporary manuscripts) for a play put on in London in 1695. Its realistic tone is matched by William Shield’s The Ploughboy, a satirical tale of a social climber with a delightful accompaniment for ‘little flute’ (recorder) and strings; The Milkmaid, ‘a Parody on the Ploughboy’, tells a parallel story of an ambitious village girl.
A number of the other songs recorded here were written for the London theatres. The most famous is When that I was a little tiny boy, a lyric sung by Feste in Twelfth Night. The setting by the tenor Joseph Vernon has an accompaniment for two violins and continuo, though an unaccompanied major-mode version of the tune is still sometimes sung in productions of the play. The Melancholy Nymph circulated as a popular song, but seems to have been written by Handel for a play by John Gay. It is one of the few works he wrote for the English theatre. Handel’s tune was used a few years later in The Beggars’ Opera (1728), along with Cease your funning, one of two tunes in the work that does not seem to have been borrowed from an existing song. The Miller of Dee comes from Thomas Arne’s ballad opera Love in a Village (1762) and uses a tune, ‘The budgeon it is a delicate trade’, that appeared in several ballad operas from the 1720s and ’30s. Only the first verse appears in Love in a Village, so we have added the others from a version published in The Convivial Songster (1782). Charles Dibdin’s Tom Bowling is justifiably the most famous sea-song of the eighteenth century, and is a delicate and subtle lament touchingly couched in naval parlance. Dibdin wrote it for one of his one-man-shows, put on in 1789 in an auction room in Covent Garden, where he accompanied himself at the keyboard and was apparently supported by two violins and cello.
The two instrumental pieces recorded here both use popular tunes. The Medley Overture by the little-known violinist Richard Charke was the prototype of a popular type of theatre piece in which popular tunes were combined in various ingenious ways. It starts with the ballad-opera tune ‘Dicky’s Walk’ which is soon combined with the march from Handel’s opera Scipio. In the repeated Allegro the identified tunes are ‘Adzooks’, ‘The Happy Clown’ (oboes and bassoon), ‘We’ve cheated the parson’ from Purcell’s King Arthur (in the bass), ‘Lilliburlero’, ‘Sir Eglamore’ (oboes and bassoon), ‘Girls and boys come out to play’ (oboes and bassoon), ‘Country bumpkin’ and ‘Tomorrow is St Valentine’s day’. The brief slow movement, harmonised in an intriguing mixture of 6/8 and 3/4, is slightly related to the tune now known as ‘Golden slumbers kiss your eyes’.
The Overture in G major by the immigrant oboist and composer Francesco Barsanti also uses ‘Country bumpkin’, but worked into an elaborate contrapuntal allegro movement. It is followed by a touchingly expressive Andantino and a minuet-like Allegro.
Peter Holman © 2000
|An Englishman Abroad|
'Bursting with irresistable charm and refinement this is a warm and finely blended disc that soothes as well as charms … the sort of recording up ...» More
'The fascinating titles do not disappoint. A diverse and entertaining mix, very well presented' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)» More
|Philips: Consort Music|
'This was a record we needed' (Gramophone)
'An important record both musically and historically' (American Record Guide)» More
'The 76 minutes pass all too quickly for this enthralled listener' (American Record Guide)
'A delightful disc' (The Guardian)» More
|Gibbons & Lupo: Music for Prince Charles|
'A wonderful mixture of the most varied music' (The Good CD Guide)
'The playing of the Parley is all that could be wished' (Fanfare, USA)» More
|Bond: Six Concertos in seven parts|
'Wonderfully attractive' (American Record Guide)
'It is difficult to conceive of more stylish playing or more sympathetic recording… This perfect disc offers frequent unexpected delights' (Hi-Fi News)» More
|O tuneful voice|
'This is a record for every library, and for lovers of song. Recommended' (Fanfare, USA)» More
|Roseingrave: Keyboard Music|
'Excellent and comprehensive introduction to Roseingrave's keyboard [works]… plays all with sure technique, musicianship and evident relish' (Organist ...
'C'est donc un vrai plaisir que découvir de si belles oeuvres' (Répertoire, France)» More
|Odes on the death of Henry Purcell|
'This disc of inventive and moving music, performed with great affection, demonstrates very clearly what this English Orpheus Series is designed to sh ...
'Recording and presentation are exemplary' (Gramophone)» More
|English 18th-century Violin Sonatas|
‘This attractive disc includes two examples by Italians and one Dutch piece … but the natives do pretty well, and the best and most individual wo ...
‘An attractive collection of English violin music of the period … recording and presentation are first-rate’ (British Music Society Journal)» More
|Jenkins: Late Consort Music|
'The Parley … play superbly well, their sprung, alert performances bringing the music sparklingly alive. This really is life-enhancing stuff whic ...» More
|Dibdin: Ephesian Matron, Brickdust Man & Grenadier|
'Three delightful pocket operas' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)
'An hour of unmitigated pleasure. Another splendid addition to Hyperion's English Orpheus series' (Classic CD)» More
|Blow: Fairest Work of happy Nature|
John Mark Ainsley (tenor), Timothy Roberts (harpsichord/spinet/virginals), Paula Chateauneuf (theorbo)
'Full of interest, rich in its varied pleasures and in the high standard of recording and performance' (Gramophone)» More
|Blow: Awake my lyre|
'Red Byrd's recordings have been consistently superb … and this recording is no exception' (Fanfare, USA)» More
|Four and Twenty Fiddlers|
'It is fascinating to hear for the first time music by Banister and Grabu and Purcell's recently-discovered Staircase Overture' (Gramophone)
'A marvellous introduction to the instrumental world in which Purcell grew up' (Early Music Review)» More
'Stylish, elegant performances … Harington's deliciously beautiful Damon and Clora and Linley's deeply affecting 'Alas' … confirm this encha ...» More
|Philips: Keyboard Music|
'Strongly recommended as a step on the path to discovering one of the outstanding musicians of the late 16th/early 17th century' x (Fanfare, USA)
'The complete restoration of a great composer's name may be beyond the capacity of a single CD, but if anything can do the trick, this one ought to. A ...» More
|The Romantic Music|
'This CD is a revelation. Do explore this well recorded, well presented disc' (British Music Society Journal)» More
|Lampe: Pyramus and Thisbe|
'Congratulations to Peter Holman, Jack Edwards and their helpers for a wonderful entertainment and to Hyperion for recording it' (Early Music Review)
'Another rewarding first recording in a valuable series' (Classic CD)» More
|The String Quartet in Eighteenth-Century England|
'This CD is something of a revelation' (Gramophone)
'Fresh and entertaining' (BBC Music Magazine)» More
|A High-Priz'd Noise|
'A high-priz'd noise indeed, with further insights into our rich heritage, performed with fragrance and deep affection. A fine and distinctive release ...
'This admirable disc could hardly have been made, at any rate to this high standard, even twenty years ago. Many of the exquisite pieces on this CD wi ...» More
|Hark! hark! the lark|
'Performances are uniformly superb and often enhanced by imaginative or comic touches. Full marks to Peter Holman and his team for this delightful ent ...
'The best and most painstaking reconstruction of music from Shakespeare's theatres available on disc' (Sydney Morning Herald)» More
|Musique of Violenze|
'Remarquable élaboré, ce récital convainc surtout par la subtilité dynamique de 'interprétation, par la précision de certains jeux rhythmiques et la v ...» More
|Boyce: Peleus and Thetis & other theatre music|
'A very agreeable disc' (Gramophone)
'Another decisive blow to the old chestnut that only Handel wrote anything worth the candle in 18th-century England' (Classic CD)» More
|Vital Spark of Heav'nly Flame|
'Once again Peter Holman's scholarship offers a fascinating glimpse of a neglected repertoire' (BBC Music Magazine)
'An infectious CD bringing to life a neglected period and its forgotten music. What fun parish music must have been for the likes of Jane Austen, Will ...» More
|The Noble Bass Viol|
'Thoroughly recommended' (Early Music Review)
'What the whole disc profitably explores is the sensuousness and versatilty of a unique instrumental voice. Modern composers ought to start exploiting ...» More
|Haydn and his English Friends|
'A fascinating collection … wonderfully atmospheric' (Gramophone)
'Music both major and relatively elementary, but all of it has charm' (Fanfare, USA)» More
'Rasping, rousing and riveting…the freshness and immediacy of the music and musicians are irresistible' (International Record Review)
'It is beautifully played and superbly recorded. A CD to gladden the heart with none of the usual clichés.' (Classic FM Magazine)» More
|Orpheus with his lute|
'The Parley of Instruments, Rachel Brown, director Peter Holman and the Hyperion recording team all deserve applause' (Gramophone)
'With the programme arranged by play rather than chronology, creating an alluring stylistic variety within its 100-or-so-year span, and excellent soun ...» More
'Winchester Cathedral Choir is singing wonderfully well these days … one of the richest of all contributions to the excellent English Orpheus Ser ...
'Well worth exploring' (BBC Music Magazine)» More
|Avison: Concerti Grossi|
'A delightful set … Roy Goodman seems to have made an affectionate study of these works and the results are enchanting. If you are a lover of bar ...
'The music is delightful, the performances scintillating, and the sound excellent. Warmly recommended' (Fanfare, USA)» More
|Boyce: Trio Sonatas|
'Yet another treasurable document of England's musical heritage' (Gramophone)
'The works, large and small, have an air of sweet reasonableness. The fugues are warmly greeted but never aggressively attacked; the string tone in th ...» More
In the three years from 1759 Arne had three smash hits, each an original masterpiece that effectively created a new genre. Artaxerxes, the second of these, was the first attempt to set a full-blown opera seria libretto in English. When Hayd ...» More
|Locke: Anthems, Motets and Ceremonial Music|
'Stylishly performed and intelligently directed' (Early Music)
'La interpretación es excelente' (Scherzo, Spain)» More
|Arne: Six Favourite Concertos|
'Should afford plenty of enjoyment. Recommended … buy it!' (Gramophone)
'Delightful music in delightful performances with outstanding sound. Highly recommended' (Fanfare, USA)» More
|Croft: Te Deum & Burial Service|
'This is choral singing of the highest quality' (Choir & Organ)
'The Pauline acoustics are captured to great effect. The notes are helpful and texts are printed. With little competition this will fill a Croft slot ...» More
|Linley: A Lyric Ode on the Fairies, Aerial Beings and Witches of Shakespeare|
'This charming ode shows [Linley] sharing with Mozart something of that barely definable but unmistakable gift of melodic genius. The music is as beau ...
'There are few discs I expect to enjoy half as much in this year's listening. Very enjoyable, unpretentious music; a disc very well worth trying' (Gra ...» More
'14 instances of the most sheerly glorious sound you are likely to come across in years' (Fanfare, USA)
'This is a revelation! This wonderful programme helps to draw him from the limbo of nearly 400 years of near-oblivion… a programme of astonishingly ri ...» More
|Locke: The Broken Consort|
'Authoritative performances of some very important chamber music for strings … there is no doubting [Locke's] mastery and his greatness. This rec ...
'This disc is delicious' (American Record Guide)» More
|Linley: Cantatas & Theatre Music|
'An outstanding disc in a trail-blazing series: highly recommended' (BBC Music Magazine)
'The irresistible music will compel you to acquire this recording' (Early Music Review)» More
|Blow & Draghi: Odes for St Cecilia|
'Peter Holman's flair for drama illuminates the evocative settings of these lesser-known composers. Both conducting and sound quality capture the nuan ...
'As ever, the disc is a revelation … once heard this infectious music is not easily forgotten, which is a tribute to the enthusiasm and convictio ...» More
|Sound the Trumpet|
'Universally full of spirit and charm … both trumpeters are on fine form, sounding effortlessly relaxed and beautifully matched, with an enticing ...
'A thoughtfully planned disc with plenty of variety … expertly directed and stylishly played, this well-filled disc is highly recommended' (BBC M ...» More
'Hyperion's recording is excellent and the booklet, with all texts and good notes, is a model' (Classic CD)
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|English Classical Violin Concertos|
'Playing of touching beauty in the slow movements and infectious energy elsewhere, supported by a robust and fragrant orchestral accompaniment. Bravo ...
'This disc proves as delightful as it is surprising … a disc of rarities that will give much unexpected pleasure … I heard this CD on its fi ...» More
|Linley: The Song of Moses & Let God arise|
'One of the best finds yet in Hyperion's English Orpheus series' (Gramophone)
'Another indispensable release in the English Orpheus series. The adventurous will find their curiosity amply rewarded' (Classic CD)» More
|While shepherds watched|
A Christmas record with a difference! This jolly disc revives the little-known tradition of ‘gallery music’, suppressed by the Oxford Movement in early Victorian times because it was too cheerful. All fifteen works vitally capture the enthusiasm of a ...» More
|English 18th-century Keyboard Concertos|
'A delightful project' (The Times)
'Los amantes de le buena música encontraran en él elementos de indudable atractivo que sería una lástima dejar escapar' (CD Compact, Spain)» More
|Stanley: Six Concertos in seven parts|
'The players are technically superb, but also play with a grace and lightness which are wholly uplifting' (BBC Music Magazine Top 1000 CDs Guide)
'An attractive record' (Gramophone)» More