The Whole Note

The countertenor Alfred Deller was born in 1912 and I wonder if this CD had been intended to mark his centenary. No matter, the disc is as welcome as it would have been two years ago. An obvious way of remembering Deller would have been to reissue some of his recordings but the producers of the CD have hit on some­thing much more imaginative. The recording commemorates not only Deller himself but two others who were central to the revival of early music in the 40s and 50s; Michael Tippett and Walter Bergmann. It was Tippett who discovered Deller in the choir stalls of Canterbury Cathedral and who launched him in his solo career at Morley College.

Bergmann had been a lawyer in Germany but was forced to flee to England, where he started a new career as a music editor, harp­sichordist and composer. The CD, which features two fine countertenors, James Bowman and Robin Blaze with recorder players John Turner and Laura Robinson, includes John Blow’s Ode on the Death of Mr. Henry Purcell (which Deller himself performed and recorded) and also several works dedicated to Deller: Bergmann’s haunting Pastorale for countertenor and recorder (1946) and the Three Songs for countertenor and guitar (1973). It also contains Peter Racine Fricker’s Elegy, a work given its first performance by Deller.

The recorder pieces (solo Inventions by Tippett and trio sonatas by Handel and William Williams) are less obviously related to the work of Deller but they serve to remind us that his emergence was part of the rediscovery of early music.

—Hans de Groot