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Barbara Bonney - Fairest Isle

4.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Audio CD, March 13, 2001
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Editorial Reviews

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Away from the clamor of grand opera and soaring symphonies, Fairest Isle takes us into the quiet, intimate world of English Elizabethan song, and you could hope for no better guide than Barbara Bonney. Her clear, beautifully rounded voice is superbly controlled, making light of a masterful technique; if you want to hear art concealing art, look no further. This is intensely private music, in a program that cleverly sidesteps any risk of listener fatigue by starting with lute accompaniment (infinitely tender playing by Jacob Heringman), moving on to a viol quartet, then finally to the richer sound of the Academy of Ancient Music under Christopher Hogwood. Leavening the mix are three instrumental interludes. The title piece is a blithe, dancelike song. Better known are some of the classics of English song: Dowland's "Come again" and "Flow, my tears," Morley's "It was a lover and his lass," and Purcell's "If music be the food of love" and "When I am laid in earth," a heart-in-mouth performance that makes time stand still. --Keith Clarke
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Product Details

  • Performer: Barbara Bonney, Christopher Hogwood, The Academy of Ancient Music
  • Audio CD (March 13, 2001)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Decca
  • ASIN: B000055XGE
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,807 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peter J. Smith on August 15, 2001
Format: Audio CD
This is my first Bonney album and I purchased it on a whim. I have not been disappointed and have listening to it almost daily. I am only writing this review as I search for another of her albums. She has an angelic voice and maintains her diction for a set that demands clear diction. The album is nicely mixed and produced with simple instruments appropriately placed.
I find this album to have two clear parts. The first half feels light while the second half is more lamenting and dark. I think she allows a little more passion to seep through in the second half although the entire album is sung in her style.
Early music lovers should note there is nothing new here, these are "mainstream" early music pieces performed very well. But it is refreshing to hear them through Bonney's voice. A soprano with any training will recognize the first few songs in seconds. My wife and I pulled Kathleen Battle doing one of the same numbers and it sounded soooo heavy. It was clear these pieces were written for a light voice Like Bonney's.
This is a fine album to add to any collection.
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Format: Audio CD
I first heard Barbara Bonney's voice in Mahler 4 with Chailly. I loved her voice so much I bought her recording of Strauss songs and later St. Matthew's passion with Gardiner. Knowing how angelic she was on all those recordings, I could predict that "When I am laid in Earth" on this CD was going to be moving. With lush, period-instrument accompaniments and a clean, warm recording, this CD is a must-have for anyone who loves her instrument.
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By EBR on October 28, 2004
Format: Audio CD
I have had this CD for about 3 years, and it instantly became one of my most treasured. I never tire of listening to it.

I am now listening to it yet again, and am constantly astounded at the utter beauty, refined simplicity, and just perfect taste of Bonney's voice.
Her diction, her natural way of singing and letting the emotions melt in her mouth, her articulation always brilliant, round, glowing, 3-dimensional, her timing and instinct perfect.

And the songs... a wonderful collection of love, philosophical, and devotional pieces. All beautiful and universal.

The instrumental accompaniments are graceful, colorful (each in their own hue), and a dignified match for Bonney's musical stature.

I particularly liked "Come Again", "Never Weather-beaten Saile", "Fairest Isle", Dido's lament, and "She loves me and she confesses too". But all tracks are very good.

I own a large collection of "classical" (I hate that word) and early music, as well as opera, lied, vocal, etc.
I am very particular about what I listen to.
This CD is still one of my most cherished... intimate and very refined.

You could say that Keats was right when he wrote "Truth is beauty, beauty truth..."
Bonney's rendition of these songs is beautiful because it is honest and true... and vice-versa.

ABSOLUTELY RECOMMENDED.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Like most classical music junkies I have my share of "early music" from the 15th and 16th centuries. When I saw that Hogwood and his terrific band from the Academy of Ancient Music were coming out with an Elizabethan selection I expected something interesting, a little exotic and a good listen. (Purcell fans will know what I'm getting at.) Wrong. What struck me is how completely accessible these songs are. All were composed and published and should not be considered "folk" music in a formal sense I suppose. But as performed by the extremely talented Ms. Bonney, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was listening to early Joan Baez singing something like "Tender Maidens." These songs aren't interesting - they're beautiful. This is a terrific alblum.
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Format: Audio CD
I do not give "five stars" for any discs other than bona fide masterpieces. This is not a masterpiece for the ages, but it is a glorious performance and uniformly entertaining.
As implied by the title, this disc contains a program of Brittish music, and to my knowledge it is Ms Bonney's first forray into this repetoire. The program is expertly constructed: the first 1/3 of the disc is with sparse lute accompaniment; the second 1/3 of the disc is with a viol ensemble; and the final 1/3 finds Ms Bonney supported by the Academy of Ancient Music (led by Christopher Hogwood). The disc, therefore, develops and transitions from the charming simplicity of the first songs to the ebullient full sound of the final songs. The program ironically concludes with an artistic high point and emotional "downer". THY HAND, BELINDA is sublimely rendered. Ms Bonney's sparkling soprano cascades over the destruction of Dido's tragic life like a sparrow floating over a battlefield. "Remember me but forget my fate" are not the most uplifting words to end a fabulous set, perhaps, but the gorgeous performance justifies the heavy heart.
I saw Ms Bonney perform in San Francisco last year (performing a program of Scandinavian music). I had enjoyed her recorded music for several years, but witnessing her performace resulted in a deepened appreciation for the woman, as well as the performer. She is gracious, she is "nice", and she is human. There is no pretention or ego about her. She eschews the annoying pomposity of the average "serious music" artist, which is a distinction that will keep me buying each new release.
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