Released on 28 November 2010
All the consort music by Martin Peerson – all, except Attendite, in 6 parts – and all that of John Milton, the poet’s father, including the extraordinary In Nomine, texted, and sung by Michael Chance. In addition all the keyboard music played on the virginals by Sophie Yates.
Martin Peerson and John Milton (the poet’s father) were members of the lively musical community based in the area around the Gothic cathedral of St Paul’s during the early 17th century. All of their extant instrumental music is introduced here in a fascinating essay by it editor, Richard Rastall, who observes that in 1676 Thomas Mace nostalgically looked back upon such domestic music-making in the early Stuart period as ‘Sublime Discourses’.
This apt title never seems far away during these exquisitely conversational performances of 20 consort pieces in five or six parts. Fretwork play with gentle mastery of affect, whether the blissfulness of Peerson’s G major Fantasia subtitled Beauty, the animated twisty modulations of his Chowse or the infectious dance-like pulse of his Almaine in D major. The few lyrical fantazias by Milton senior ought to dispel the myth that Puritans disliked music (they merely disapproved of elaborate music in church services), and the evocation of sublimity is also evident in Milton’s brief six-part In nomine ‘If that a sinner’s sighs sent from a soul oppressed’ (during which Michael Chance’s unsteady singing is drowned by the viols).
Sophie Yates exercises her beguiling touch in four keyboard pieces by Peerson, for which she uses a replica of Elizabeth I’s virginals (the Venetian original built c1570 is in the V&A). The generation of composers active in the years prior to the English Civil War is somewhat forgotten, so this harmonious match of Rastall’s scholarly research and Fretwork’s fine musicianship is priceless.
David Vickers, The Gramophone
Catalogue number: Regent Records REGCD341