The Renaissance ensemble Mignarda, a collaboration of Renaissance specialists led by the husband/wife team of lutenist Ron Andrico and mezzo soprano Donna Stewart, selected and arranged songs, ayres, ballads, and dances that are connected historically to the 17th Earl of Oxford. Several of the twenty-eight pieces in this recording even bear his name, most notably the Earl of Oxford’s Galliard. Andrico has given it here its first recording on the lute.
The Renaissance harmonies take on a surprisingly modern feel in Stewart’s rendition of the epic ballad of Helen of Troy from Horestes, and her languid Willow Song, Desdemona’s famous lament from Othello, pulls at the heart strings -- as it surely was intended to do centuries ago.
For musicologists, it should not matter that this CD is a radiant display of the poetry and music of a 16th century English nobleman. Like most things Shakespearean, it is “not for an age but for all time,” and this ambient, fresh take on the ancient Renaissance art forms will find a comfy home in your car’s CD changer. It should justly find a place, too, in music libraries throughout the country.
It is an adventure in sound made all the more bewitching through the talents of Renaissance past-master Andrico and enchantress Stewart. In fact, the Mignarda recording is so good that it invites the criticism (always close on the heels of any Oxfordian achievement) that the success of the music is more a function of the consummate skill set of the musicians. But all composer/lyricists deserve the recording artists who can best make manifest their style. Certainly audiences will forever recall Burt Bacharach’s songs sparkling in the dynamic brilliance of Dionne Warwick. Does not the music of Irving Berlin still deserve to bask in the warm glow of Bing Crosby? It is only fitting that posterity place at the disposal of the beleaguered Earl of Oxford the musicians that fully understand him.
He’s been waiting a long time.
- Bonner Miller Cutting, for Shakespeare Matters
...Mignarda make the song ['O mistress mine'] wistful and reflective...turning a piece so familiar it's almost hackwork into something of heart-stopping beauty....
-Meic Goodyear in Lute News, newsletter of the Lute Society (UK)
Donna Stewart is a mezzo with a clear yet rich voice that injects life and appeal into the most doleful pieces of Dowland. Sadness becomes meditation in her skillful tones. The lute, too, is a calming, reflective instrument, easily tinged with melancholy. Ron Andrico s strong and sensitive performance brings out these qualities, while articulating the structure and tempo of the pieces with fine determination.
-Elizabeth Imlay, De Vere Society Newsletter (UK)
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
Our third release features 16th century English songs with poetry attributed to Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, and lute solos with dedications bearing his name. Rounding out the collection are several lute solos and duets from the famous Folger lute manuscript, and familiar favorites sure to please lovers of Shakespeare, Dowland, and all things Elizabethan, including Greensleeves and The Willow Song.
Recorded in response to a special commission, this CD highlights music centered around Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Oxford was an important figure in the Elizabethan court and was patron to notable literary and musical luminaries including Edmund Spenser, author of The Fairie Queen, and Robert Hales, a favorite singer of Queen Elizabeth.
The program includes lute songs set to poetry attributed to Oxford as well as featuring lute solos with dedications bearing his name. Also included are several lute solos and duets from the famous Folger lute manuscript, a few familiar favorites, including Greensleeves, the Willow Song, and several Dowland songs, and a handful of world premieres.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
One of the few professional lutesong duos in the United States, Mignarda's unique and immediate sound blends respect for authenticity with solid musicianship and a flair for improvisation. Their fresh and engaging approach imparts the immediacy of folk music to renaissance music.
Donna Stewart has had the rare benefit of a thorough grounding in the practical application of Gregorian chant and polyphony from the middle ages onward, during nearly a decade with a five-voice schola dedicated to providing liturgical music for the Latin Tridentine Mass. She has performed and recorded with Apollo's Fire, Cleveland's renowned baroque orchestra, and has performed as a soloist and professional chorister for music ranging from 12th century chant through dozens of world premieres, appearing throughout the US and Canada, and at England's Canterbury Cathedral.
Ron Andrico has a unique musical background and is a specialist in historical music for stringed instruments. A sought-after musician in theatre and recording, for five years he performed, recorded, broadcasted and toured the US and Japan with Marv and Rindy Ross as a member of Oregon's famous Trail Band. Since 1995, he has turned his attention to the lute and is today one of the few professional lutenists in the US. A respected editor of historical sources of lute music, he is responsible for bringing to light and publishing many forgotten gems of music for voice and lute through Mignarda Editions.
Together, the duo have received private and public coaching with Hopkinson Smith, Nigel North and Ronn McFarlane. They have performed across the US and have made it their mission to introduce non-specialist audiences to music for lute and voice.
The Mignarda duo specialize in performing music that resides in the grey zone between folk and art music, with interpretations that follow the renaissance ideal of moving the passions of the listener.