Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century vocal music with lute or theorbo has been enjoying a modern renaissance as evidenced by the recent releases of Monika Mauch and Nigel North's Musical Banquet (ECM, 2008) and Nigel North's Dowland recordings for Naxos. This is period music that immediately evokes images such as those captured in Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth (William Morrow, 1989) and its sequel World Without End (Penguin, 2007). This is old music that is strikingly plaintive and melancholy, even when intended to be happy.
Nigel North student John Lenti and Canadian soprano Linda Tsatsanis assemble a clever collection of lute songs from the French, English, and Italian traditions. All are songs of love and requite, beautifully antique and not anachronistic. The French compositional contingent is represented by Michele Lambert, followed by Sebastien Le Camus and Robert de Visee. Particularly charming is the opening Spring duo by Lambert, "Doux Charme du Printemps" ("Sweet Charm of Spring") and "Le Printemps et L'amour" ("Springtime and Love"). Love and pain are in the air and inseparable as Tsatsanis sings of zephyrs and the sweetness of spring. Lenti's performance of John Dowland's galliards (dances) are as sprite and fresh as Tsatsanis' love of spring. Her Dowland is uniformly fine even in the bleak confines of "In Darknesse Let Mee Dwell."
The least represented here are the Italian songs, but those chosen are splendid. Jacopo Peri's "Hor Che Gli Augelli" ("Now That the Birds") is simple in form making Lenti's and Tsatsanis' delivery that much more crystalline. Claudio Monteverdi's lengthy "Lamento D'Arianna" ("Ariadne's Lament" from his opera L'Arianna (1608) is beautifully transformed from the stage to the salon. These two young musicians are going far to put the Northwest on the musical map.