Songs from the Pleasure Garden

Songs from the Pleasure Garden

by Philip Langridge


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Songs from the Pleasure Garden

The eighteenth century concerts at London's Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens represented a major turning point in the history of public concerts. They were relatively inexpensive and attracted patrons from nearly all walks of life, from the nobility down to the lower middle class. The usual fare at Vauxhall Gardens was the English-language pop tunes of the day, interspersed with instrumental pieces of modest length and the occasional serenata -- semi-staged short operas for just a character or two. Most of the music from Vauxhall is witty, simple, elegant in style, and, in keeping with the tenor of the times, a little affected, overtly gracious, and superficial; it is seldom covered on recordings. Nonetheless, it represents the first flowering of English song as it is known in a modern sense, and thus its incompatibility with tastes nearly three centuries hence has not prevented expert performers from dipping into the Vauxhall till once and a-hey, such as Philip Langridge does on Signum's Songs from the Pleasure Garden. Much as "homo oeconomicus" rubbed shoulders with the lords, ladies, and viscounts at the Vauxhall Gardens itself, here reasonably well-known composers such as William Boyce and Thomas Arne are presented in the company of such unknowns as Maurice Greene, John Eccles, James Hook, and Thomas Linley. This is a retrospective phenomenon; at the time, all were considered equals, though Arne and Hook were among the "house composers" at Vauxhall. The songs are excellently well chosen; Langridge is particularly attracted to those numbers that accentuate witty turns of phrase, such as Daniel Purcell's "Cupid Make Your Virgins Tender." Patter abounds in Eccles' "Belinda," which contains the immortal lines "her prattle prattle tittle tattles, all engaging, most obliging." Langridge's singing is quite good throughout, though he sounds a bit more emotionally effective in lower lying songs. He has chosen an ensemble from among his own family; his daughter plays the cello parts, and Tristan Gurney plays a 1780 Gagliano that Langridge owns; Malcolm Layfield joins in on a second Gagliano that uncannily matches the sound of the first. David Owen Norris contributes accompaniment on a fortepiano on some songs to vary the backing, and at one point you could swear a harpsichord is in use, though if so it is not listed. The best stuff here are the two works of Thomas Arne, his song "Jenny" and short solo cantata, "Cymon and Iphigenia"; Arne's through-composed, narrative, and quasi-operatic style seems best suited both to the modest format of a Vauxhall Concert and to Langridge's conception of it. Signum's Songs from the Pleasure Garden is a worthy effort, though one wishes Langridge had shared the program with at least one female singer; after all, it was the ladies -- the Mrs. Cibbers and the Mrs. Pintos -- that dominated Vauxhall, and not the men.

Product Details

Release Date: 06/26/2007
Label: Signum Uk
UPC: 0635212010129
catalogNumber: 101


  1. Orpheus with his lute
  2. Orpheus and Euridice
  3. How Severe is my Fate, song
  4. The Pleasures of Spring Gardens, Vauxhall
  5. Releive, The Fair Belinda Said
  6. My Lovely Celia, for voice & keyboard
  7. The Steadfast Shepherd, song
  8. A shepherd lov'd a nymph so fair
  9. The Curfew
  10. Think not, my love, when secret grief
  11. Let no mortal sing to me, song
  12. Go, Lovely Rose
  13. Grant me, ye Gods, song
  14. What is't to us
  15. Cupid, Make your Virgins Tender, song
  16. The Non-Perreill, song
  17. Go, Rose, My Chloe's Bosom Grace, song
  18. Jenny, An Agreeable Musical Choice
  19. Cymon and Iphigenia, cantata

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