No 1: Fain would I change that note
No 2: O stay, sweet love
No 3: Lady, when I behold the roses
No 4: My love in her attire
No 5: I gave her cakes and I gave her ale
No 6: To couple is a custom
The first three lyrics were also used by English Renaissance lute and madrigal composers, and are found respectively in Hume’s Musicall Humors (1605), John Farmer’s first book of madrigals (1599) and John Wilbye’s first book of madrigals (1598). Throughout the songs Walton reflects the spirit of such composers: rhythmic conceits within the poems are exploited; so too is the expressive potential of word-play, as heard in the first setting with its wide, expressive intervals for the voice and the aching dissonance between voice and guitar at the opening.
The second song with its puckish accompaniment finds the lover in cajoling mood, although the saucy punch line of the object of his desire shows that his earnest endeavours were unnecessary! In the third the lover compares the colour of damask roses to his lover’s lips in an ardent vocal line that reaches a sensuous climax, appropriately, on the word ‘lips’. The fourth song has a vivacious scherzo-like quality with the voice part mainly in quavers until it pointedly changes to staccato crotchets for the final pert line, ‘When all her robes are gone’. In ‘I gave her cakes and I gave her ale’ the music has a rollicking character with virtuoso writing for both voice and guitar featuring glissandi, grace-notes and the body of the guitar tapped in imitation of a drum. The melody of the final song is almost like a folk song which in the first three verses is accompanied by the nonchalant ‘vamping’ of the guitar. In the final verse, however, both voice and guitar increasingly become more animated with syncopated rhythms and misplaced accents that create a mood of heady anticipation at the prospect of the lover winning his lady’s hand.
from notes by Andrew Burn © 2002