Barbara Bonney, in a big-budget production, explores similar territory on Fairest Isle. With lute songs by Dowland, Campion and Morley, consort songs by Byrd, and orchestrally-accompanied Purcell songs, this is a programme of favourites. I should confess to favouring countertenors in this repertory, but Bonney has a beautiful voice, and gives very expressive accounts, clearly having considered every word. However the emotional temperature stays low: the beauty is cool, objective. Perhaps this is because the pronunciation and vocal production lie so firmly in the mainstream Italian vocal tradition, and early music performers have erected an alternative orthodoxy? Nevertheless with the superb Phantasm viol consort, the Byrd 0 Lord, how vain are all our delights is wonderfully plangent. Jacob Heringman provides exemplary lute accompaniment for the Dowland – Flow my tears is all that one might hope – and Hogwood’s Academy of Ancient Music are on good form in the Purcell: ‘Dido’s Lament’ is as heartrendingly luscious as it should be.

Early Music Today, August/September 2001