CD Review: Pleasure Garden/ Genevieve Lacey

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With her recent CD release Pleasure Garden, recorder virtuosa Genevieve Lacey invites us to explore the sounds of nature, that from the first moments of opening and peering cautiously round a rusted gate, take us down a path discovering a living, breathing world of plants (Lichen,Amarilli, Daphne), birds (Her Nest, Whipbird), rocks (Granite) and other secrets of a microcosm that is fertile with sound.

Lacey links the recorder of Renaissance times  with its modern capabilities. Her collaborator on this project is Norwegian musician and record producer Jan Bang who is responsible for the acoustic samples, stones and dictaphone. Also featured are recording engineer and sound designer Jim Atkins on Feather Storm and Utrecht City carillonneur Malgosia Fiebig (Granite and Pale Blue Evenings).

Pleasure Garden is built around the music of Jacob van Eyck (1589/90 – 1657), Dutch carillonneur, recorder player and composer. van Eyck was blind from  birth and so he was probably  possessed of a heightened awareness of sound. Based  in Utrecht, his visual impairment didn’t prevent him from becoming one of the most important carillonneurs in the northern Netherlands.

In 1649 van Eyck was given a pay rise, “provided that he would now and then in the evening entertain the people strolling in the churchyard with the sound of his little flute.” This eventuated in his two-volume Der Fluyten Lust-hof (The Flute’s Pleasure Garden) which contained nearly 150 pieces for the recorder. Diverse in their origin, some are from the French air de cour repertory, some are from Italy (Giulio Caccini and Gastoldi), England (Dowland), Germany and the Netherlands; some are borrowed from the Genevan Psalter.

Many of the 14 tracks on Pleasure Garden are drawn from van Eyck’s pieces in their original form (Amarilli, Marie); others are arranged by Lacey and Bang (Her Nest, Daphne); yet other tracks are written by Bang and Lacey (Lichen, Granite, Whipbird).

Lacey paints her portraits of organic life on recorders of different ranges. There are the familiar melodies like Amarilli, played a capella as a simple air, and reprised with variations and the more adventurous Granite and Feather Storm. There are birdsongs and bees, rain drumming down on stone, insects scurrying across a rock  – and whatever other elements this acoustic world of old and new conjures up for the listener.

The CD booklet supports the listening experience with biographical notes, Lacey’s insights and  verses and prose by Fiona Blair and Damon Young.

The recording was made in May and June 2015 in the Windsong Pavilion, Four Winds, Bermagui, Australia  and the Punkt Studio in Kristiansand, Norway.

This is an imaginative collection where sound is music. It will rarely take you above a gentle heartbeat. It is a love song, a languid stroll or an afternoon slumber in a Sylvan glade. Perhaps even a journey of discovery if you are curious enough to venture beyond the creaky gate.

Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©

Pleasure Garden is available on ABC Classics 481 2370.


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