THOMAS LINLEY the Younger: Music for the Tempest; Overture to the Duenna; In yonder grove; Ye nymphs of Albion’s beauty-blooming isle; Daughter of Heav’n, fair art thou! – soloists/ Parley of Instruments/ Paul Nicholson – Hyperion Helios

by | Feb 19, 2007 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

THOMAS LINLEY the Younger: Music for the Tempest; Overture to the Duenna; In yonder grove; Ye nymphs of Albion’s beauty-blooming isle; Daughter of Heav’n, fair art thou! (Darthula) – Julia Gooding, soprano/ Paul Goodwin, oboe/ The Parley of Instruments Baroque Orchestra and Choir/ Paul Nicholson, harpsichord and conductor – Hyperion Helios CDH55256, 72:38 ****:

I completely missed this 1994 release which makes the last 13 years somewhat poorer as a result! Thomas Linley (1756-1778) was the tragically short-lived son of Linley the elder, a harpsichordist, vocal teacher, and composer. Linley the father had a most prodigious series of spawn that he gratefully and easily thrust upon the people of his native town of Bath, Elizabeth Ann, Mary, and Maria all talented singers and actresses, while son Samuel was a superb oboist before becoming a sailor. Our hero himself was playing violin concertos at the age of seven, and met his exact contemporary Mozart while studying in Italy.

But the star-crossed Linley the elder was to lose his son at the age of 22 in a boating accident, followed by son Samuel the same year (who caught a fever on a ship) and then daughters Maria (1784), Mary (1787), and Elizabeth Ann (1792) from consumption. The elder then floundered in 1795—the victim of a broken heart, according to many sources. Is it any wonder?

And what a loss it is! Thomas Linley was a remarkable composer by any standard, and this is just what he did in 22 years. This collection of cantatas and theater music is simply stunning—rarely do we hear a composer of that age who even comes close to what Mozart was doing, but if any can make that claim, Linley certainly can. These are all virtuoso, prodigiously pregnant works that show a true master at work. Time and time again my ears awoken to small, subtle tricks and turns of phrase, deliciously intricate counterpoint, and marvelously pointed melodies that one usually only hears with the Salzburgian master. This is not easy music—Linley makes great demands on all of the players, and only a studied hand could have successfully brought these creations to light in the composer’s time.  But the freshness and invention—even with some rather overblown and not exactly brilliant texts—will strike you over and over.

Mozart said, upon hearing of Linley’s repose,  that the composer “was a true genius”, who “had he lived, would have been one of the greatest ornaments of the musical world”. I can easily second that rather exalted opinion. These period performances are sterling in concept and execution, and Hyperion’s midprice Helios label makes them almost irresistible.

— Steven Ritter
 

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