Garden of Early Delights - Pamela Thorby & Andrew Lawrence-King - Gramophone

The title's a play on both Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights and Jacob van Eyck's recorder collection The Flute's Garden of Delights; but more than anything this new disc recalls Herbert's line "a box where sweets compacted lie". Straddling the Renaissance and early Baroque, the programme comprises sonatas, sets of divisions and arrangements of songs and popular tunes from Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and England. This repertoire proves rich soil for Thorby and Lawrence-King, and the resulting cross-fertilisation of styles and modes of expression with a modern scholarly aesthetic enlivened by two of the keenest musical intelligences in the business results in a most satisfying listening experience.

Thorby maximises the affective impact of the music through an incredibly varied approach to articulation and phrasing - compare the lively glosses of the delightful opening track, Diego Ortiz's Recercada segunda de tenore, with the evocative, floating lines of Giovanni Battista Fontana's Sonata seconda. Lawrence-King is likewise alert to the rhetorical possibilities inherent in both his accompaniments and solos; in the former category, he proves an ideal partner for Thorby in his ability to think vocally, while in the latter his almost visual sense of line and colour is apparent, as in Biagio Marini's Passacaglio and Dowland's "Weep you no more".

Recorded sound is nothing short of stunning, while the cover image of a hummingbird nicely encapsulates Thorby's lightness and agility as she darts from piece to piece to extract its nectar. This is Paradise indeed.

01 September 2008