The Food of Love
(Dorian, 2001)

The early music of the British Isles is probably best known to the general public in the form of soundtracks to Tudor movies featuring Henry VIII. This CD brings us the more authentic versions of tunes composed back in the 15th and 16th centuries, and they are surprisingly good even to the untrained 21st-century ear.

Back in 1651 (I know that's another century), John Playford composed tunes used in a medley here called "Westmoreland/Molly Peatly/An Old Man in a Bed Full of Bones/Ten Pound Lass/Cuckolds all in a Row," and there is an amazingly fresh sound to all of them. Even the titles are enticing with their earthy humour. The sounds are amazing and conjure up life in that ancient village.

"The Saytrs' Masque," dating from 1611, has a curiously modern sound that re-enforces the notion that all music is embedded in our folk memory. "A Ground by Mr. Finger" is so intriguingly named that it has to be played. It is a marvelous piece on the fiddle that could grace a classical or tradition repertoire without upsetting anyone.

The instruments used are treble and bass viols, fiddle, lute, guitar, theorbo and recorders, and they give a beautiful rich sound to these tunes lost to modern generations, which deserve to be heard again. Listening to this CD I was reminded of the "Beggar's Opera" by John Gay and how the folk tunes of the past were incorporated into classical works.

If these tunes could get the airplay that other genres are allotted, I believe we might get a revival of interest in Renaissance music akin to what Riverdance gave to Irish traditional tunes. They deserve a wider audience.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 3 August 2002

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