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Reliquary For William Blake - Will Ayton / Parthenia Consort


Release Date: 06/05/2007 
Label:  Msr   Catalog #: 1216   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Will Ayton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Parthenia Vocal EnsembleConsort of Viols
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 14 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



AYTON A Reliquary for William Blake. Songs of the British Isles: selections. 2 Settings of Songs of Thomas Campion. Incantations. Rest Sweet Nymphs. Fantasia on a Theme of Henry Purcell. Ballad of the Rosemary Parthenia; Alexandra Montano (mez) MSR MS 1216 (73:32 Text and Translation)


I once had an idea, never realized, to write a work called New Music for Old Instruments, Read more which would have used ancient instruments such as rebecs, viols, and crumhorns, playing music written in a distinctly contemporary idiom. Will Ayton has accomplished what I only dreamed about, although it might be argued that his idiom is not exactly contemporary. Yet, this is new music, at least by date of composition, and it does use old instruments, in this case primarily viols augmented occasionally by a recorder. These admirably underpin the lovely voice of Alexandra Montano.


A Reliquary for William Blake is an homage to a poet, artist, humanist, and mystic—in short, a man of many dimensions. In it, Ayton sets 12 of Blake’s poems to the dulcet tones of the viols, above which Montano alternates between singing and speaking the texts. There are also some purely instrumental interludes. The melodic lines of the sung poems have the flavor of the more conservative American composers of songs, such as Richard Hundley and Ned Rorem, but the viol accompaniment imparts quite a different aura to these vocal lines from that provided by the piano. The alternation of poems sung and spoken is a stroke of brilliance on Ayton’s part, and Montano’s voice is equally pleasing in both. I’m not sure that I would categorize her as a mezzo, however. Her voice is very pretty, light, and airy—perfect, to be sure, for this music, but unimaginable in a true mezzo role, such as Carmen.


The Settings of Songs of the British Isles, as the title suggests, are new settings of actual folk songs from the Celtic tradition of the United Kingdom. The Thomas Campion songs are also new settings of Campion’s words. Campion was probably equally well known in his lifetime as a poet and composer of lute songs, of which he wrote more than 100. His poetry is full of life, which fact has allowed Ayton to reinvigorate it with new melodies and harmonies.


Incantations consists of three movements, “Winter Solstice Song,” “A Meditation for Bass Viol,” and “Rune for Autumn’s Wind.” Again acknowledging his heritage, Ayton has set these with a Celtic flavor, but does not consciously use any actual folk material. The middle movement is a solo for bass viol, exquisitely played by Beverly Au.


Rest Sweet Nymphs is a setting of both the lyrics and the melody of Francis Pilkington’s lute song and madrigal of the same name. Ayton’s accompaniment provides a more contemporary setting than Pilkington’s original setting for lute, albeit not a lot more contemporary. Fantasia on a Theme of Henry Purcell gives evidence of Ayton’s respect for this English master, whose fantasias are a staple of any self-respecting viola da gamba player. Ayton’s work demonstrates his mastery of polyphonic textures, although he also brings other techniques to bear in this single-movement work.


The disc closes with a lovely—there really is no other word— Ballad of the Rosemary, written for three viols, recorder, and voice. The touching poem recounts the legend of the rosemary plant being used to hold up the Christ child’s just-washed clothing to dry during the holy family’s flight to Egypt, upon which it was rewarded by the Virgin with a blue flower and a fragrant scent.


The combination of the exquisite music on this CD and the equally fine rendition of it by Alexandra Montano and her colleagues in Parthenia have produced an aural feast for the music lover. Had a fight with the boss at work? Just put this disc in your changer, and you’ll forget all about the ugly incident. Certainly recommended—and highly—for far more music lovers than just the early-music crowd and their kindred enthusiasts for classic English poetry.


FANFARE: David DeBoor Canfield
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Works on This Recording

1.
A Reliquary for William Blake by Will Ayton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Parthenia Vocal Ensemble,  Consort of Viols
Period: 20th Century 
2.
Pieces (4) from Songs of the British Isles by Will Ayton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Parthenia Vocal Ensemble,  Consort of Viols
Period: 20th Century 
3.
Settings (2) of Songs of Thomas Campion by Will Ayton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Parthenia Vocal Ensemble,  Consort of Viols
Period: 20th Century 
4.
Incantations by Will Ayton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Parthenia Vocal Ensemble,  Consort of Viols
Period: 20th Century 
5.
Rest Sweet Nymphs by Will Ayton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Parthenia Vocal Ensemble,  Consort of Viols
Period: 20th Century 
6.
Fantasia on a Theme of Henry Purcell by Will Ayton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Parthenia Vocal Ensemble,  Consort of Viols
Period: 20th Century 
7.
Ballad of the Rosemary by Will Ayton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Parthenia Vocal Ensemble,  Consort of Viols
Period: 20th Century 

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