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Album at a Glance

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Delphian Records Record Label - Delphian Records: "In 2000 two Edinburgh University graduates, Paul Baxter and Kevin Findlan, approached forward-thinking individuals for aid in founding a classical record label in Edinburgh. Their aim was to promote the already-rich artistic activities that take place in Scotland and in Edinburgh..."
Release date: 2013-05-14


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Music from the Dow Partbooks: An Emerald in a Work of Gold


An Emerald in a Work of Gold performed by the Marian Consort under Rory McCleery and the Rose Consort of Viols is made up of some of the less common gems from the Dow Partbooks. These partbooks are collections of manuscripts contained in five sets, copied by Elizabethan scholar Robert Dow (1553 - 1588), which are now cataloged in the library of Christ Church, Oxford.

Comprised of a smoothly continuous succession of gorgeous motets, songs and fantasies for viols, the music on this Delphian disc forms a profoundly satisfying program. Works are by a broad range of Elizabethan composers; pieces by well known masters William Byrd, Thomas Tallis and Christopher Tye compliment those by less known composers that include Philippe Verdelot, Nicholas Strogers and Philip van Wilder.

The music in the books, both secular and sacred, encompasses a wide range of styles and techniques popular in Dow's time. There are passages of raw dissonance as a composer paints in music the bleak substance of a section of verse. Performances by consorts of voices or viols was pretty much dependant upon the musicians available and there is never any indication of what instruments should be used. It's beyond the scope of this brief recommendation to address individual pieces, so instead I turn you to the two musical samples provided. The first is a motet by William Mundy, Sive Vigilem for voices alone which is followed by the consort song, A doleful deadly pang by Nicholas Strogers. Both composers were active in the middle of the Sixteenth Century.

The seven-voiced Marian Consort achieves a remarkable blend and purity of sound and the five-part Rose Consort, one of the preeminent viol consorts working today, is a pleasure to hear. This is a great album for early music devotees, but is easily accessible for anyone wishing to delve into the vast musical riches of the period.