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

A confession: I usually do not like performances of Ancient or Early music.

I didn't say I don't like the music, just the performances. They most often sound dry and academic, leaving me bored and uninvolved. So it was with some trepidation that I opened the parcel from Linn in Scotland.

The cover art was beautiful and eye catching and the title, "Garden of EARLY Delights", with it's allusion to Hieronymus Bosch's painting entitled "Garden of EARTHLY Delights" was both clever and humorous; a departure from other such recordings.

I also am not a fan of the recorder, and instrument that dates back nearly 2,000 years. This recording features Pamela Thorby, a recorder virtuosi playing 16 works from Renaissance and Early Baroque by composers Ortiz, Van Eyck, Castello, Dowland, Schop, Bassano, Fontana, and Marini. The only accompaniment is by Lawrence King, a noted harpist who plays several different version of the instrument; a Baroque triple harp, a Spanish double harp, and a Renaissance psaltery. The harp I like; I have written for it and performed/recorded with it many times.

Into the player went the disk, which contains several versions including stereo SACD as well as surround, and a CD layer that is HDCD encoded. (I might mention that Linn also provides digital downloads at their site in everything from MP3 adn FLAC to master quality 24/88 bitrates). I thought I would do my best to tolerate a couple of cuts or three before I moved on to other disks.

I was amazed by the performances and interpretations of these two artists. The music was filled with personality, humor, spirit and musicality. They brought this music alive in way seldom heard. I sat enthralled through the entire disk, basking in the energetic, vivacious and sparking portrayals of this divine genre. I was never tempted to doze off once. This is music that should appeal to anyone who appreciates good music on any level, even those who eschew classical music.

It was fascinating to listen to the different qualities of the soprano, alto and tenor recorders Pamela played, as well as the diverse harps of Mr. Lawrence-King.

While I did not venture into the surround idiom on the disk, the stereo versions as per usual by Linn were outstanding. The unique qualities and artistry of the duo were captured lavishly with just the right amount of reverb and spatial cues. There was excellent depth and spread with a vibrant soundstage that was accurately scaled and position ed in space something that is difficult to do with any duo.

It easily bears repeated listening whether seated in the sweet spot or as early morning or late evening background music.

If, like me, you have found yourself shying away from music of the 1400's or so because if its musical value, this is one recording that is recommended to try.


24 June 2009