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Notes 63.2 (2006) 435-437

Reviewed by
Sarah Day-O'Connell
Knox College
John Travers. Eighteen Canzonets for Two and Three Voices. Edited by Emanuel Rubin. (Recent Researches in the Music of the Classical Era, 74.) Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, c2005. [Acknowledgments, p. vi; introd., p. vii–xvii; texts, p. xviii–xxi; 4 plates; score, 85 p.; crit. report, p. 87–89. ISBN 0-89579-567-1. $63.]

Emanuel Rubin's claim that the Georgian part-song repertory will "undoubtedly bring pleasure" (p. ix) to both singer and listener is rather hyperbolic in the context of notes for a scholarly modern edition, but the assertion is nevertheless nearly sustainable. With this volume in Recent Researches in the Music of the Classical Era, Rubin reintroduces John Travers's superb Eighteen Canzonets for Two and Three Voices (London: John Simpson, 1746), written for various combinations of two or three voice parts and continuo [End Page 435] . Originally available by subscription purchase or through lending libraries, and sung for entertainment in private gatherings at homes or in public singing clubs, these pieces will "bring pleasure" in a variety of present-day settings, from vocal studio, to recital stage, to participatory entertainment among amateurs. They would also enliven theater productions set in eighteenth- or early-nineteenth-century England. Certainly, they deserve to be recorded, perhaps with a number of selections from the enormous and under-explored repertory to which they belong (secular genres known as glees, fa-las, madrigals, Neapolitans, ayres, songs, and still other appellations), or perhaps in a collection arranged by topic (mythical characters, love, pastoral scenes) or devoted to texts of Matthew Prior (1664– 1721). Listeners, singers, and continuo players alike will be attracted by these canzonets' varied textures, alternation of syllabic and exuberant melismatic passages, counterpoint (including some artful canons), lively changes of meter, witty texts (eleven by Prior), and vivid text painting.

Canzonet 3 ("Thus to the Muses"), for instance, opens with a stately canon in which Venus ineffectually commands some muses to adorn her altar, lest her son "assume his potent darts." Abrupt changes of meter and tempo follow as the narrator pithily reports the muses' response: "twang goes the bow." Averse to worldly pleasures, the muses display "settl'd" thoughts and "intent" looks, set to the parallel minor and sung "slow." "Spiritoso" melismas portray Cupid's flight. In Canzonet 12 ("Haste, my Nanette"), Travers's setting intensifies the humor of the text. Prior's poem is a satire on the pastoral style, starting out with predictable and typical elements of that convention, which Travers, in turn, sets straightforwardly in an E-major antecedent and dominant consequent. From there, however, the canzonet's humorous commentary on the pastoral is through-composed, with a succession of sections varied in key, meter, and tempo that divide the text into irregular groups of lines. The canzonet ends with a tongue-in-cheek lack of conviction: "For with her swain my love shall stay, though the wolf strole and the sheep stray"—melismas at parallel tenths on "strole" emphasize the wantonness of wolf and sheep rather than the assurance of continued love.

The edition will also "bring pleasure" to scholars in musicology and other fields who seek to recover and understand the widely overlooked role of music in the culture of Georgian England. (Further historical background, bibliography, and especially useful clarification regarding nomenclature may be found in Rubin's The English Glee in the Reign of George III:Participatory Art Music for an Urban Society, Detroit Monographs in Musicology/Studies in Music, 38 [Warren, MI: Harmonie Park Press, 2003].) In his introduction to the edition, Rubin helpfully summarizes the collection's ancestry. In the sixteenth century, the part-song flourished alongside the madrigal. Distinction between the two genres, in fact, was blurry: the madrigal was understood to be possibly more contrapuntal, while the part-song included lute accompaniment—although when sufficient voices were available, the lute was dispensable, making the part-song more madrigalian. In the seventeenth century, a proliferation of singing clubs mirrored increased...


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