★★★★☆

One of classical music’s dilemmas is the relatively small body of high-profile works that get recorded again and again. Thank goodness then for musicians like Josie Ryan and the Emerald City Viols.

The repertoire on this CD for soprano and viol consort, is remarkably varied. It begins and ends with compositions by viol player and director Brooke Green, starting with settings of Dorothy Porter’s poetry, and passes through some surprising influences – Nick Cave is not the first name I expected to see referenced in the liner notes! Green utilises modern harmonies and rhythms, but not to the detriment of melody. There’s also a generous helping of more traditional repertoire from Gibbons, Morley, and Dowland, while sprinkled throughout are works by Elena Kats-Chernin and Ross Edwards.

The Emerald City Viols give enthusiastic performances, especially excelling in the Renaissance pieces. Gibbons subtly melancholy settings are sung with great aplomb by Josie Ryan. Similarly, three Dowland songs (Flow my tears, In darkness let me dwell, and Can she excuse my wrongs) are performed in a natural and affecting way. Recorded with funding from the online crowdfunding platform Pozible, this is the ancient sound of the viol consort, brought into the 21st century.

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