Fanfare

Countertenor Alfred Deller (1912-1979) worked hard at putting Baroque music before the pub­lic in the mid-20th century. He was instrumental in bringing about the ongoing renaissance of 17th-and 18th-century music. The compact disc Remembering Alfred Deller contains a mix of Baroque and modern music for countertenor, recorder, cello, guitar, and harpsichord. Some of the composers featured knew Deller and worked with him. Walter Bergman, once a musically inclined German lawyer, moved to England in 1938 and was eventually interned on the Isle of Man. Since he was already a fine amateur pianist, he became a professional accompanist when he could no longer practice law. Eventually he played for Deller and composed music for him. On this recording we hear his Pastorale for Countertenor and Recorder, written in 1946. In it, countertenor Robin Blaze and recorder player John Turner tell of a shepherd who has followed a shepherdess to her valley, stayed too long, and now wants to sleep there. They sing and play with bell-like tones, but we never hear her answer. Turner decorates this charming story with luscious trills.

It was Michael Tippett who “discovered” Alfred Deller’s unusual voice and introduced him to the public as a countertenor instead of a male alto. Here we listen to his 1954 piece Four Inventions for Two Recorders. These short movements provide a bit of variety as recorder players Laura Robinson and John Turner regale the listener with a plaintive duet. Although the piece was written in 1954, it has an ageless sound that evokes dreams of romantic knights and their ladies.

Alan Ridout’s Soliloquy is a bit more densely composed, with flute, cello, and harpsichord accompanying Robin Blaze’s thoughtful rendition of Thomas Campion’s text. We seldom hear of 17th-century composer William Williams, but his music speaks volumes here. Again, Turner and Robinson play the recorders, while Tim Smedley plays the cello and Ian Thompson the harpsichord. Their last movement is a glorious romp that could make the sourest pedant want to dance. The program on this disc alternates happy and sad music. After Williams’s merry piece, we listen to a rather long, melancholy rendition of John Blow’s Ode on the Death of Mr. Henry Purcell sung by both countertenors accompanied by the two recorders, cello, and harpsichord. The Sonata in F Major for two recorders and continuo by Handel lightens the mood again. Its Allegro is a wonderful contrapuntal duet for recorders accompanied by cello and harpsichord. The Grave slows the tempo for a few moments but it then reverts to another fast dance beat. Peter Pricker’s Elegy shows his admiration of the fourth-century Spanish saint Eulalia, who died for her faith at the age of 12.

For a finale, we hear three songs Bergmann wrote for countertenor and guitar in 1973 and later revised. They con­sist of a lullaby for the Christ child, a work that praises the art of music, and an amusing song about a scorned lover. The luminous Mater cantons filio (The Mother Sings to the Son) could be an unusual Christmas carol. To Mustek describes some of the effects music has on the listener who enjoys its delights. The final song, Chop Cherry, is perfect fun-filled short piece. Countertenor James Bowman and guitarist Dave Bainbridge capture the essence of each song with their presentations. This disc contains a great deal of variety and the sound of each work is clear and pristine. If you love Baroque music, whether you are old enough to remember Alfred Deller or not, you will want to hear this recording.

—Maria Nockin