In a Strange Land: Elizabethan Composers in Exile

In a Strange Land
Elizabethan Composers in Exile

Stile Antico HMM902266

Exile, for Edward Said, was not only banishment but a crucial separation from cultural identity; a sense of not feeling at home in one’s home which is what unites the Elizabethan composers on this new album from Stile Antico: ‘In a Strange Land’ presents Catholic composers working abroad with those who stayed in Protestant England, estranged from Rome.

Dowland’s famous pavane, “Flow my tears” opens the album performed in part song rather than the more familiar lute-song beloved of countertenors. Stile Antico, as ever, excel in plangency singing slowly with two voices per part and leaning into the famous descending lacrimae motif. It’s beautiful, but ponderous compared to Dowland’s more madrigalian “In this trembling shadow” a few tracks later. Here the initial use of single voices per part brings immediacy and intimacy which serves the chromaticism with poignancy. Dowland’s penchant for melancholy is infamous, but in the hands of Byrd (1535/40?-1623) it is strikingly political. In ‘Tristitia et anxietas” Stile Antico find a slow-burn of sorrow in Byrd’s churning harmonies and focus on rich, low sonorities allowing for a lightening of interpretation in the more hopeful second half.


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