Garden of Early Delights - Pamela Thorby & Andrew Lawrence-King - Atlanta Audio Society

In Garden of Early Delights, Pamela Thorby plays the recorder and Andrew Lawrence-King the psaltery and harp in a refreshing program of renaissance and early baroque music that I found as joyous and enchanting as its composers were (mostly) unknown to me. It's as delightful a way to spend an hour's listening as I know of.

The recorder, by the way, is an end-blown wooden instrument with finger-holes rather than keys, ending in a short swelling (bell) at the lower end. It derives its name from a Middle English word meaning "to sing like the birds." And for sure, it is the birdsong-imitator par excellent among woodwinds. In this album, Thorby relishes the noticeably lyric quality of her instrument (or rather instruments, since the recorder constitutes a family, of which Thorby here plays the soprano, alto, and tenor members). The great beauty and naturalness of her playing informs her performances of pieces by Jacob Van Eyck (1589-1657), Diego Ortiz (1510-1570), Dario Castello (fl. 1620-1630), Giovanni Bassano (1558-1617), Biagio Marini (1594-1663), and Giovanni Fontana (d.1630). She is particularly impressive in the quick passages, where her mastery of the various "slurs" (not a derogatory term where recordists are concerned) emphasizes the lyrical element.

Lawrence-King accompanies Thorby on Baroque triple and Spanish double harps. He takes center stage himself in eloquent accounts of two song transcriptions of John Dowland (1563-1626), "Sorrow, sorrow stay" and "Weep you no more," collaborating with Thorby in a noble Lacrime Pavaen by Johann Schop (1590-1664), which pays homage to the English composer. Oh yes, and there's that psaltery (for some reason, the word always breaks me up when reading Psalm 150); we hear it in the lively foot-stomping "Boffons" (Clowns) by Van Eyck on track 4.

01 December 2008