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April Cantelo

Eighteenth-Century Shakespearen Songs (CD)

Shakespeare’s plays and their incidental lyrics have always been popular with composers from Thomas Morley to Benjamin Britten. There must be many hundreds of Shakespearean settings, ranging from simple songs to full-length operas. One of the most fruitful periods for such settings was the eighteenth century when there were frequent reveals of the plays themselves for which theatre managers commissioned new settings from the resident theatre composers, such as Thomas Arne.

The present disc offers a selection of the settings for solo voice with accompaniments ranging from simple figured basses to full string orchestras with an obbligato flute. It even includes one or two items in which the words were not by Shakespeare at all but which were either introduced into Shakespearean productions or were written in his honour, like Arne’s evocative "Thou soft-flowing Avon." Like most of the English music of that tuneful era, these songs are something of a revelation for their melodic charm – the English, then as now, loved a tune and their composers certainly knew how to supply them with plenty of good ones.

WELDON: Take, O take those lips away
CHILCOT: Hark, hark the lark
SMITH: Flower of this purple dye
THOMAS ARNE: Come away, death
HOOK: The Willow Song
THOMAS ARNE: Blow, blow thou winter wind
THOMAS ARNE: Under the Greenwood Tree
LINLEY: Now the hungry lion roars
SMITH: Sigh no more, ladies
SMITH: You spotted snakes
LINLEY Jnr.: O bid your faithful Ariel fly
FRANZ JOSEPH HAYDN: She never told her love
GREENE: Orpheus with his lute
THOMAS ARNE: Thou softly flowing Avon

April Cantelo, soprano
English Chamber Orchestra
Emanuel Hurwitz, leader
Raymond Leppard, director / harpsichord