Rosette and three stars

An entirely delightful representation on CD of an Elizabethan lutenist, composer and poet, now totally overshadowed by Dowland. Yet he wrote a great number of works for the lute and its two sister instruments, generally in a serious and contemplative vein. Indeed the melancholy pavane Posthuma has as much "dolens" as anything by Dowland. It is this meditative quality which Jacob Heringman catches to perfection and which makes this collection so appealing. He improvises his own divisions when needed, as was expected by the composer, and his playing is appealingly spontaneous. The thoughtful simplicity of a piece like The Night Watch contrasts with the musing, improvisational extended Fantazia, both played on the more sonorous bandora, for which Holborne wrote more music than any of his contemporaries. But there is lively writing too, like The Miller and A French toy; and how well they sound on the cittern, a robust-timbred instrument mostly favoured by the lower classes, and which came to be much played in barber shops. The composer took especial care over the four duet pieces for cittern with bass viol: as he describes them "with some reasonable good chords and bindinges after a more heedful nature of composition". Jacob Heringman is beautifully recorded in a most suitable ambience, providing the ideal CD for a late evening reverie.

Christopher Wilson plays these pieces very well, notably the lively items like The Fairy Round and Wanton, with Muy Linda a highlight. But he does not penetrate the inner core of the ruminative pieces as touchingly as Jacob Heringman. However there is not too much duplication here and this inexpensive Naxos disc is well worth getting for the coupled repertoire (including duets) by Holborne’s contemporary, Thomas Robinson.

The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs, 1999 edition, p. 683