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Robert Johnson: The Prince's Almain And Other Dances For Lute / Nigel North


Release Date: 11/16/2010 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8572178  
Composer:  Robert Johnson
Performer:  Nigel North
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 0 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



R. JOHNSON The Prince’s Almain, Masque, and Coranto. Pavan No. 1. Galliard: My Lady Mildmay’s Delight. Pavan No. 2. 2 Almains. The Noble Man. The Witches’ Dance. Pavan No. 3. 3 Almains. The Fairies’ Dance. Fantasie. Galliard. Lady Strange’s Almain. Pavan No. 4. First, Second and Third Dances in the Prince’s Masque. 3 Read more Almains. The Satyre’s Dance Nigel North (lt) NAXOS 8.572178 (60:17)


Robert Johnson (c.1583–1633) is best remembered for his many years in the service of George Carey, Lord Hunsdon. After Carey became Lord Chamberlain and patronized the theatrical company known as The Lord Chamberlaine’s Men (later The King’s Men), Johnson was engaged to write the musical accompaniment for many of their new plays. This brought him into the mainstream of British cultural history, since theatrical companies of the day employed dramatists as well as actors and stagehands—with much movement among all three roles—and this particular company included on its roster Shakespeare, Webster, and the team of Beaumont and Fletcher. If you see a performance of The Tempest, The Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline , or The Duchess of Malfi that restores the original music, you’re listening to airs composed by Johnson.


Less theatrically inclined listeners will know him through a series of keyboard transcriptions made of his lute music, for Johnson became a highly regarded lutenist at the court of James I. Though only two dozen or so (a few works are disputed) lute pieces survive, they do so in many manuscripts and publications of the day, both in their original instrumentation and in keyboard versions. The latter show up regularly today in concerts and on albums, so that while a fancier of Elizabethan keyboard music may never have encountered Johnson’s name before, he or she will almost certainly have heard The Prince’s Almain, Lady Strange’s Almain , and My Lady Mildmay’s Delight.


Nigel North’s collection includes virtually all of the original surviving lute selections, plus his own transcriptions of two pieces (the Pavan No. 4 and The Satyre’s Dance , from Ben Jonson’s masque Oberon ) whose lute versions have not survived. The pieces are for the most part written for the rich, nine-course version of the instrument. With one exception, their origins lie in popular dance forms of the day, including the galliard, pavane, allemande, and courante. They are invariably direct in expression and deceptively simple in form, moving from deeply expressive themes with chordal accompaniments, such as the Pavan No. 1, to an almost constantly active and effective use of imitative counterpoint in the Three Almains. A gift for pleasing, fresh melody—a blessing all English composers of the period seem to have possessed, regardless of their music’s weight, from William Mundy to William Byrd—was his, in full measure. If this was the style of things he performed regularly as royal lutenist to James I, it’s easy to understand why his merits were so appreciated at court over three decades.


North’s performances are, as ever, technically refined. He is stylistically accurate, employing appropriate ornamentation lightly, with an eye to the original tablature, but not following sources (these never derive directly from Johnson, in any case) slavishly. Dance rhythms aren’t sacrificed to personal whim, but the slower pieces—the pavanes, the fantasie—have a welcome breadth and flexibility. The sound is close, just resonant enough to give body to the instrument without clouding textures.


In short, this is an album of delightful occasional music, performed with taste and refinement.


FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

1. The Prince's Alman, Masque and Coranto by Robert Johnson
Performer:  Nigel North (Lute)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
2. Pavin for Lute in C minor by Robert Johnson
Performer:  Nigel North (Lute)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
3. Galliard "My Lady Mildemays Delight" by Robert Johnson
Performer:  Nigel North (Lute)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
4. Pavin for Lute in F minor by Robert Johnson
Performer:  Nigel North (Lute)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
5. Almans by Robert Johnson
Performer:  Nigel North (Lute)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
6. The Noble Man by Robert Johnson
Performer:  Nigel North (Lute)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 17th Century; England 
7. Witches dance by Robert Johnson
Performer:  Nigel North (Lute)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
8. Pavin for Lute no 3 in C minor by Robert Johnson
Performer:  Nigel North (Lute)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
9. Fairies Dance by Robert Johnson
Performer:  Nigel North (Lute)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 17th Century; England 
10. Fantasie for Lute by Robert Johnson
Performer:  Nigel North (Lute)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
11. Galliard by Robert Johnson
Performer:  Nigel North (Lute)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
12. Alman "Lady Strang's" by Robert Johnson
Performer:  Nigel North (Lute)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
13. Pavin for Lute no 4 by Robert Johnson
Performer:  Nigel North (Lute)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
14. Prince's Masque: Dances 1-3 by Robert Johnson
Performer:  Nigel North (Lute)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
15. Masque of Oberon: Satyrs' Dance by Robert Johnson
Performer:  Nigel North (Lute)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 1621; England 

Sound Samples

The Princes's Almain - Masque - Coranto
Pavan I in C minor
Galliard, "My Lady Mildemays Delight"
Pavan II in F minor
2 Almains
The Noble Man
The Witches' Dance
Pavan III in C minor
3 Almains
The Fairy Masque: The Fairies' Dance
Fantasia (Fantasie)
Galliard
Almain, "Lady Strang's"
Pavan IV
The First, Second, and Third Dances in the Prince's Masque
3 Almains (8.572178 track 16): 3 Almains
Satyr's Dance

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