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O sweet love.

O SWEET LOVE Daniel Taylor, countertenor, Les Voix Humaines (Susie Napper & Margaret Little, violas da gamba) & Stephen Stubbs, lute. ATMA Classics ACD2 **

Amid today's countertenor boom, Canadian Daniel Taylor seems happiest simply to make a beautiful sound. His pure, clean voice is something he deploys almost instrumentally, tracing a delicate, sweet vocal line. In this recital of music by John Dowland and William Byrd, Taylor's singing is interspersed with instrumental selections played by the viola da gamba duo Les Voix Humaines (Susie Napper and Margaret Little), or by Stephen Stubbs on the lute. In the end, there is a homogeneity between Taylor's use of his human instrument and his colleagues' use of their man-made instruments. In fact, with their slightly more aggressive approach and greater interpretive imagination, Les Voix Humaines achieve a more exciting expressiveness. Nothing that is sung on this CD is as dramatic or as memorable as the duo's instrumental interpretation of Byrd's "The Bells."

Taylor's range and potential are not well represented in this recording. He seems to have little to offer in this repertoire beyond a passive prettiness. Almost every song sounds the same: an even, careful, distanced utterance. The texts themselves count for little, and in a song like Byrd's "Ah Silly Soul," you'd be seriously challenged to grasp more than two consecutive words. These quite sharply differentiated songs are whitewashed into a series of bland vocalises. It would probably be vexatious to point to American countertenor David Daniels as an artist who has found a way to infuse what is in essence an artificial instrument with passionate urgency and verbal acuteness. But the difference is crucial, and in other contexts, Taylor has shown that he knows, and can respond to, the difference.

It may be that the very concept of this CD--and there are many others like it--works against Taylor. There is a danger of mass-produced early-music Muzak in releases like O Sweet Love, in which there seems no greater aim than to lay down a gentle, uninsistent background of antique sounds. Do we really need Elizabethan Easy Listening?
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Publication:Opera Canada
Article Type:Sound Recording Review
Date:Jun 22, 2001
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