“The Flaming Fire: Mary Queen of Scots & Her World” [TrackList follows] – Parthenia/ Ryland Angel, tenor and countertenor/ Dongsok Shin, virginal – MSR

by | May 3, 2015 | Classical CD Reviews

“The Flaming Fire: Mary Queen of Scots and Her World” [TrackList follows] – Parthenia/ Ryland Angel, tenor and countertenor/ Dongsok Shin, virginal – MSR MS-1490, 64:29 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

The honorable and yet quite discombobulated Mary Stewart, the so-called Queen of Scots, probably had a very strong case in her quest for the throne of England; it was her misfortune that one of the strongest monarchs in history happened to occupy the throne at that time. Mary’s imprisonment for nineteen years under good Queen Bess only underscores the legitimate threat that she posed, and she could not have imagined the betrayal at Bess’s hands when she sought protection after being forced to abdicate, her six-year reign barely a footnote in history, though a very prominent one.

Music-wise we can’t be really sure what her tastes were, though the idea of “Catholic” comes to mind quite literally. It was a difficult time musically, especially in the Scottish Church, at once rigorously Roman and then just as suddenly subjected to the hideous iconoclasms that were the mark of the dark, dreary, and aesthetically abortive fundamentalism of the crazy John Knox and his ilk. This wasn’t unique to Scotland either; for almost the entire tenure of Elizabeth she would have to straddle the two opposing forces at work religiously in her country, a situation brought on by her father and only exacerbated by her own views, though she was in many respects respectful of two opposed and overlapping traditions, reflected in her own favorite composers.

But because the Reformed Church made such inroads, there remains very little for almost a hundred years, aside from some fragmentary manuscripts, that can be drawn upon. Yet this collection features a goodly span of influences and production from a very confused period of history. From priests who converted to Protestantism, composers who straddled the line between both, the French influence (another throne the Scottish Queen believed to be hers), to nearly two hundred years after Mary in the work of Robert Burns, the album pulls together Marian Scottish strands of all flavors that seek to imposed a thorough, if not comprehensive, portrait of the music of the time.

A warning—this is not your typically rowdy collection of English Renaissance music. Most of the works here are quite calm and reflective, haunted by the spirituality of the age but not dominated by it, and take some concentrated listening. If you are up for that then your efforts will not go unrewarded, as the performances and sound are first rate. Parthenia scores another winner.


Traditional; Robert Burns, arranged by Richard Einhorn – Ca’ the Yowes
Anonymous – Come, my Children dere
JOHN BLACK (fl. 1546–1587) -Musick Fyne
Anon. – In a garden so greene
Anon. – The flaming fire
JAMES LAUDER (c. 1535-1595) – My Lord of Marche Paven
Anon. – Hutchesoun’s Galyiard
Anon. – Tourdion
Attrib. Wilson (c. mid 16th century) – Wilson’s Fantasie
Anon. – Ane lessone upon the First Psalme
DAVID PEEBLES (fl. 1530-1576) – Psalm 18
Anon. – Psalm 18 in Reports
Anon. – Je suis déshéritée
Anon. – Our father God celestial
JOHN BLACK – Lytill Blak
WILLIAM BYRD (c. 1540-1623) – The Noble Famous Queen
ROBERT JOHNSON (c. 1500-c. 1560) – A Knell of Johnson
ANTHONY HOLBORNE (c. 1550-1602) – Pavan ‘Paradizo’
JOHN BENNET (fl. 1599-1614) – Eliza, her name gives honour; Venus’ birds
ROBERT JOHNSON (c. 1583-1633) – Almaygne: Mr. Johnson
RENALDO PARADISO (d. 1570) – A fancy
THOMAS TALLIS (c. 1505-1585) – The Third Tune [from Archbishop Parker’s Psalter, 1567]
Traditional; Robert Burns, arranged by Richard Einhorn – Lament of Mary Queen of Scots; A Rose-bud By My Early Walk; Ye Banks and Braes

—Steven Ritter

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