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Each Lovely Grace - Corkine: Second Book of Ayres

Corkine / Cantar Alla Viola / Balbeisi / Marin
Release Date: 05/08/2012 
Label:  Nimbus   Catalog #: 6173  
Composer:  William Corkine
Performer:  Fernando MarinNadine Balbeisi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cantar Alla Viola
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

We know all too little about William Corkine: that he was an English composer and musician - player of the lute, viol and lyra-viol - who flourished in the second decade of the seventeenth century in Britain before travelling to Poland in 1617. Two books of 'Ayres' exist … the first expects lute and bass-viol accompaniment and was published in 1610; the second (1612) contains 18 songs for bass-viol alone, 13 of them lack tablature or alternative part-song versions.

It's this latter collection that is presented here; other songs included on the CD are those of Corkine's 'Lessons' with lyra viol. This is the only CD devoted entirely to Corkine's intense, melodious, concentrated and highly expressive music other than one on
Read more Channel Classics (21204) by Mieneke Van der Velden, Johannette Zomer, Fred Jacobs and Jaap ter Linden ('Musickes Sweetest Joyes').

This music is truly lovely, focused and - perhaps most noticeably - reflects many moods. From the melancholy so characteristic of the early Jacobean (such as Goe heavy thoughts and Downe, downe proud minde) through the pithy and pointed (Fly swift my thoughts) to the optimistic (My deerest Mistrisse). Only a couple are longer than five minutes; My deerest Mistrisse less than one. But this is emphatically not a collection of historical curios. Nadine Balbeisi and Fernando Marín obviously have a great deal invested in the music, its emotional impact, the purposeful tension between text and music, at which we can safely say Corkine was expert. They present the rounded and mature resultant blend to us with neither fuss nor apology.

It's very much its own music … sui generis. No overt weeping or 'professional' depression, as was a speciality of the likes of Dowland. Somehow the music we hear in this collection is much more low key, more reserved, and generally the tempi are slower. There is a less extrovert feel to the music; it's more concentrated; less self-conscious, in the way that Byrd's or Gibbons' equivalents are, rather than Farnaby's or Weelkes'. Balbeisi and Marín understand the idiom very well. At times, one wishes for a little more spring in their step, a little more vivacity to a song like Two Lovers sat lamenting, for instance.

The pair have the import of the music well, though. Two aspects of the work of the duo, Cantar alla Viola, stand out: the intimate relationship between voice and viol, which not only does justice to the textures in which Corkine works, but even enhances his gentle intensity. And they bring the fresh attitude of an American/Jordanian (Balbeisi) and a Spaniard (Marín) to the very English music of Corkine.

The attention paid to the construction and tuning of the instrument - a modern copy, described well in the accompanying booklet - is clearly as responsible for the happy embrace of voice with strings as are the technical expertise and interpretative skills of the duo. Equally interesting, and equally successful, is the approach which Balbeisi and Marín take to pronunciation. It's apparently a pronunciation consistent with scholars' best efforts at approximation to Early Modern English with its greater degree of what to us is 'earthiness'. And of greater variety … pronunciation of the same word may legitimately vary from song to song.

This CD has little of the sense of a standalone recital, nor an arbitrary collection, still less a thematic mixture. Rather, it's a faithful and hence highly enjoyable, offering laying as bare the music as Corkine – who, on this evidence, deserves to be better known - lays bare his mind and heart in music of true originality and depth.

The acoustic is perhaps not so well-balanced, voice and viol, as one might like. Balbeisi's gentle, layered, soprano is somewhat distant, when the music calls for maximum exposure to its every nuance. The copy of the CD received for review exhibited noticeable distortion in several places - the start of track 20, for example. In the long run, neither of these will distract too much from our enjoyment of music that is otherwise both highly individual and unlikely to be recorded or performed on its own elsewhere.

- Mark Sealey, MusicWeb International Read less

Works on This Recording

Second Book of Ayres by William Corkine
Performer:  Fernando Marin (Viola Da Gamba), Nadine Balbeisi (Soprano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cantar Alla Viola
Period: Renaissance  
Written: England 

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