Notes and Editorial Reviews
A CLEARE DAY: Pieces from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book
Kenneth Weiss (hpd, vgnl)
SATIRINO SR111 (63:35)
Munday, Dowland, Byrd, Philips, Anonymous, Farnaby, Gibbons, Peerson, Tomkins, Richardson, Bull
This is an attractive, well-played collection of 14 pieces from the
Fitwilliam Virginal Book.
Kenneth Weiss has both the
down to perfect effect in such works as Philips’s
Amarilli di Julio Romano
, and the more virtuosic keyboard style used in such variational settings as Farnaby’s popular
. He phrases flexibly, chooses a range of effective tempos, and possesses all the technique demanded of the more complex pieces.
One interesting aspect of this recording is its use of three modern keyboards based on period instruments, their qualities suited to different aspects of this music. There’s a 2006 virginal, modeled on a 1585 Verona original, whose richly mellow tone makes so much of reflective pieces such as Gibbons’s
. A 2005 single-manual harpsichord, based on a Ruckers original, has a bright, almost brassy tone, useful for Tomkins’s strutting
, and the almost arrogant
of Ferdinando Robinson. Another harpsichord, this time from 2007 and modeled on a 1697 instrument made by Carlo Grimaldi in Messina, Sicily, has that loud “ping” attack common to many contemporary Italian instruments, as well as their fast drop-off. I agree with Weiss’s use of it in both
set of variations, as it helps clarify contrapuntal textures and maintain the underlying rhythmic pulse of the music.
If I do have a complaint, it’s a minor one regarding the selection of pieces Weiss has made. There are almost 300 of these in the manuscript, yet many aren’t currently available on easily accessed recordings—and here we have some of the most popular, often-anthologized works. Too bad a mix of well-known and seldom-heard music wasn’t featured instead.
The sound is excellent, and the liner notes, by musicologist Richard Langham Smith, more urbane, well read, and specific than is typical in these compilation discs, a couple of errors identifying which of the specific instruments is in use aside. My recommendation? There have been a few other keyboard discs based on the
Fitzwilliam Virginal Book
over the years, but the application of three such attractive keyboards give this one a distinctive sound, and distinct edge. Dare we hope that Weiss and Satirino will be moved to produce a second volume?
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal