The Prince's Masque: Royal Music for Romance and Revelry is Richard Griffith's third CD of music for solo Renaissance lute and represents a return to roots of sorts, as nearly half the pieces on this collection are from Scottish sources. As with his previous releases, Richard leans toward melodic, easily-accessible works and hidden treasures from 16th and 17th century manuscripts, often stumbling upon delightful, lesser-known variations of popular lute tunes seldom performed by other lutenists.
The title of the CD refers to the three pieces that form the first "suite" of tunes--solo lute arrangements of ballets composed by Robert Johnson to be danced by King James 1st's son Prince Henry in the title role of the "Oberon" masque, which was performed on New Year's Day 1611. These pieces have been a centerpiece in Richard Griffith's live performance repertoire for several years and it is a treat to see them finally available on a recording. There are several pieces from the Stralach, Rowallan, Pickering, and Balcarres manuscripts as well, hearkening back to Richard's first release (Bonny Sweete Boy), and also signaling a return to emphasis on British isles music, Scottish in particular. Variations of two Dowland mainstays appear, in the form of Thomas Robinson's "Go From My Window" and Wolfgang Hoffmann's "Frog Galliard", in addition to a number of traditional airs, dances, student pieces (the "Two Toys" from Pickering are simply delightful) and other obscure gems mined from the back pages of Renaissance lute tablature compilations. Fans of the lute will likely discover many new favorites on this CD.
"The Prince's Masque" presents an outstanding snapshot of Richard Griffith's live performances and offers up a sublime listening experience that's just right for quiet moments, study...and dancing. Satisfying stuff for Early Music aficionados, acoustic music fans and anyone with an interest in all things Renaissance.