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Five XVIth-century poems

composer
1938

 
Ireland's last song-cycle, the Five XVIth-Century Poems (note the literary title) dates from 1938 and harks back to his very first cycle—again five songs, again five separate poets and a similar common thread of a feeling for nature. What marks the Poems off from the vast majority of Ireland's songs is the use of the kind of early texts which normally he avoided, unlike many other composers of his day. Complexity gives way to a generally more simple style which—especially in some of the long, flowing lines—again brings Quilter to mind.

The words of the first song, A Thanksgiving (for the sights and sounds of spring) have gained in familiarity thanks to their use in Benjamin Britten's ever-popular A Ceremony of Carols. The poem, by Bassus, has a precise date: 1530. The verse for All in a garden green (a celebration of the delights of June) is by Thomas Howell, who died around 1580. A West Country man, he was educated at Oxford, then spent his life in the service of the noble Herbert family. Disappointingly, no poet can be assigned to the pithily humorous observation of womankind expressed in An Aside, which dates from the reign of Henry VIII. Then again, it is in the nature of the cowardly poet's observations that, we are told, he will not repeat them in company. Ireland's spiky accompaniment wittily suggests sharp-tongued whispering. A Report Song is a cheerful 6/8 pastoral number in praise of country pursuits from dancing to wooing, with words by Nicholas Breton (c1545-c1626), one of whose favourite themes as a poet was the poverty of those engaged in his profession … though this is not his subject here. Finally, The Sweet Season practically overdoses on the pleasures inherent in the month of May, the words being by Richard Edwardes (1523-1566).

from notes by Andrew Green 1999

Recordings

Ireland: Songs
CDA67261/22CDs

Details

No 1: A thanksgiving
author of text

Track 24 on CDA67261/2 CD2 [1'30] 2CDs
No 2: All in a garden green
author of text

Track 25 on CDA67261/2 CD2 [1'47] 2CDs
No 3: An aside
author of text

Track 26 on CDA67261/2 CD2 [1'21] 2CDs
No 4: A report song
author of text

Track 27 on CDA67261/2 CD2 [1'52] 2CDs
No 5: The sweet season
author of text

Track 28 on CDA67261/2 CD2 [2'48] 2CDs

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