CD Review: No one does musical melancholy better than Canadian countertenor Daniel Taylor
DANIEL TAYLOR & THE THEATRE OF EARLY MUSIC
Shakespeare, Come Again, Sweet Love (RCA Red Seal)
*** (out of 4)
As François Filiatrault eloquently points out in the accompanying booklet, music was an integral part of Shakespeare's plays -- as references, as actual songs to be performed and as background music played by an offstage consort. In this new album, Canadian countertenor Daniel Taylor brings together his favourite collaborators in his Theatre of Early Music for a rich, 21-track sampler of all things musically Shakespearean.
Of course, we get the title song -- performed this time by tenor Charles Daniels instead of Taylor. Also present is veteran soprano Emma Kirkby in this beautiful-sounding recording made in London's Henry Wood Hall last June. Taylor sings solo for eight of the songs, including the gorgeous opener, "By Beauteous Softness," set by Henry Purcell and accompanied by Elizabeth Kenny on lute.
Taylor's voice, still lush, has darkened over the past few years, adding an even deeper lustre to the melancholy he clearly cherishes. Although the selection of songs covers all moods and occasions, the preponderance is for introspection, if not outright lament. And no one does this as well as Taylor these days.
Kenny is a pleasure in a solo Galliard by John Dowland. Fabulous soprano Carolyn Sampson brings a powerful, lithe delicacy to "If Music be the Food of Love," in another Purcell setting. Baritone Neal Davies does well in the ensemble songs as well as in his one solo: John Dowland's "If My Complaints Could Passions Move."
Taylor has ceded one song -- Robert Johnson's setting of "Where the Bee Sucks" -- to fellow countertenor Michael Chance, if for no other reason than to show how rare is the depth of a voice like Taylor's.
My only wish from the booklet, which includes all the lyrics, would have been to give a little bit of context or history for each song.
Overall, this is a carefully crafted, nicely performed outing that could, ideally, have used a bit more variation in tempo and mood. That said, there could hardly be finer accompaniment to a rainy summer afternoon.
There isn't a video available to go with the new disc, so here is a diversionary treat both upbeat and humorous featuring Carolyn Sampson, singing "I Myself Shall Adore" from Handel's Semele at the BBC Proms last year with Harry Christophers and the Sixteen: