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CD Review

Daniel Bacheler

The Bachelar's Delight

  • 2 Courantes
  • Fantasie
  • 6 Galliards
  • 5 Pavans
  • 2 Preludes
  • Galliard after John Dowland
  • A Gallyard - to Plead my faith
  • A Pavin
  • Almaine
  • Daniells Jigge
  • En me revenant
  • Fin de galliarde
  • La jeune fillette
  • Mounsieurs Almaine
  • Volta
Paul O'Dette, lute
Harmonia Mundi HMU907389
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Here is a lute-lover's delight! Perhaps the world's leading lutenist, researcher, teacher and performer Paul O'Dette has put together a bit of a zinger. O'Dette's set of the complete John Dowland lute works (Harmonia Mundi, HMU2907160/64) has long been the reference recording of that repertoire. But Bacheler (the alternative 'Bachelar' is authentic too) has never received the same kind of attention – mainly due to the absence of a serviceable modern edition and to the technically unusually-demanding nature (particularly in terms of tempo: stark contrasts between ornamented and unornamented passages) of his works. 'The Bachelar's Delight' is the first CD devoted completely to his music. Renaissance instrumental enthusiasts need not hesitate to buy it.

Daniel Bacheler (1572-1619) was born in a farmhouse in Buckinghamshire in England, soon recognized as a child prodigy and apprenticed to his uncle who was a musician at the Elizabethan court. While in his teens Bacheler wrote music for such illustrious figures as Frances Walsingham, wife of Philip Sidney, on whose horse he rode at his funeral in 1587, and Lord and Lady Essex. At the time of his early death at 46, Bacheler was the highest paid groom in the service of the wife of James 1, Queen Anne.

Over 50 lute solo works by Bacheler survive; half of them are to be enjoyed on this 78 minute CD. They tend to be harmonically conservative and have none of the chromaticism of Dowland). The standard dance forms of pavan, galliard and almaine make up the majority of these rich and persuasive pieces – none longer than seven minutes. There are discernible French influences in Bacheler's works; indeed he pioneered a flamboyant arpeggiated style of embellishment similar to the 'brisé' style. It's been speculated that this is perhaps as a result of the influence of Lord Herbert of Cherbury with his French connections: the latter's Lute Book is a primary source of Bacheler's work. What's more, Anne also employed a number of French musicians – indeed Bacheler switched from the standard 8-course Elizabethan lute to the 10-course French instrument… O'Dette uses both for this recording. You will hear the richer lower sonorities of the newer French style on this CD as well as works drawing on the English contrapuntalism, to which Bacheler nevertheless effectively stayed faithful throughout his composing life.

As expected, O'Dette's playing is limpid, balanced and utterly convincing with a beautiful balance between drive and delicacy. Despite the potential for over-exuberance at the excitement of a virtual discovery finally revealed, the material is laid before us much, one is tempted to imagine, as it would have been appreciated during Bacheler's lifetime. To gentle reflective expression O'Dette gives prominence over any kind of showiness every time. As you progress through the subtle changes in pace, color and balance between chordal, passage-work and evocative melodies on repeated hearings, you will hear both echoes of Bacheler's contemporaries (especially John Dowland and his son Robert, who said of Bacheler, "the right perfect Musition"); but you also hear a very original, mature and profound voice.

The acoustic (the CD was recorded at Le Domaine Forget, Françoys – Bernier Concert Hall in St. Irࡕnée) is just right; the recording respects every single note. There is variety, a generous helping of this inspirational music and more than adequate sleeve notes, to which a C21st ancestor, Anne Batchelor, has contributed. Some of the solos really deserve to become standard repertoire and more widely-heard: 'La jeane fillette' and 'Monsieurs Almaine' in particular will repay repeated listening. So, Yes, this is a little gem. It has much more than curiosity (or 'palate-cleansing') value and is highly recommended.

Copyright © 2007, Mark Sealey