Peter Pears & Julian Bream – A Recital Of Lute Songs (1960)

UKFrontCover1Sir Peter Neville Luard Pears CBE (22 June 1910 – 3 April 1986) was an English tenor. His career was closely associated with the composer Benjamin Britten, his personal and professional partner for nearly forty years.

Pears’ musical career started slowly. He was at first unsure whether to concentrate on playing or singing, and despite the efforts of some of his friends, it was not until he met Britten in 1937 that he threw himself wholeheartedly into singing. Once he and Britten were established as a partnership, the composer wrote many concert and operatic works with Pears’s voice in mind, and the singer played roles in more than ten operas by his Britten. In the concert hall, Pears and Britten were celebrated recitalists, known in particular for their performances of lieder by Schubert and Schumann. Together they recorded most of the works written for Pears by Britten, as well as a wide range of music by other composers. Working with other musicians, Pears sang an extensive repertoire of music from four centuries, from the Tudor period to the most modern times.


With Britten, Pears was a co-founder of the Aldeburgh Festival in 1947 and the Britten-Pears School in 1972. After Britten died in 1976, Pears remained an active participant in the festival and the school, where he was director of singing. His voice had a distinctive timbre, not to all tastes, however he could use his voice very well in singing many musical styles.


Julian Alexander Bream CBE (15 July 1933 – 14 August 2020) was an English classical guitarist and lutenist. Regarded as one of the most distinguished classical guitarists of the 20th century, he played a significant role in improving the public perception of the classical guitar as a respectable instrument. Over the course of a career that spanned more than half a century, Bream helped revive interest in the lute. (wikipedia)


Both together celebrates a music, long, long time ago … music from the Elizabethan era:

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558–1603), English art and high culture reached a pinnacle known as the height of the English Renaissance. Elizabethan music experienced a shift in popularity from sacred to secular music and the rise of instrumental music. Professional musicians were employed by the Church of England, the nobility, and the rising middle-class.

Elizabeth I was fond of music and played the lute and virginal, sang, and even claimed to have composed dance music. She felt that dancing was a great form of physical exercise and employed musicians to play for her while she danced. During her reign, she employed over seventy musicians. The interests of the queen were expected to be adopted by her subjects. All noblemen were expected to be proficient in playing the lute and “any young woman unable to take her proper place in a vocal or instrumental ensemble became the laughing-stock of society.” Music printing led to a market of amateur musicians purchasing works published by those who received special permission from the queen.

Portrait of Elizabeth I of England playing the lute,
portrait miniature by Nicholas Hilliard, c. 1580:


Despite England’s departure from the Roman Catholic Church in 1534, English did not become the official language of the Church of England until the reign of Elizabeth’s half brother Edward VI. His reign saw many revisions to the function within the Anglican Church until it was frustrated by the succession of Catholic Queen Mary. Queen Elizabeth re-established the Church of England and introduced measures of Catholic tolerance. The most famous composers for the Anglican Church during Queen Elizabeth’s reign were Thomas Tallis and his student William Byrd. Both composers were Catholics and produced vocal works in both Latin and English. Secular vocal works became extremely popular during the Elizabethan Era with the importation of Italian musicians and compositions. The music of the late Italian madrigal composers inspired native composers who are now labelled as the English Madrigal School. These composers adapted the text painting and polyphonic writing of the Italians into a uniquely English genre of madrigal. Thomas Morley, a student of William Byrd’s, published collections of madrigals which included his own compositions as well as those of his contemporaries. The most famous of these collections was The Triumphs of Oriana, which was made in honour of Queen Elizabeth and featured the compositions of Morley, Thomas Weelkes, and John Wilbye among other representatives of the English madrigalists.

Renaissance lute, detail of a Hans Holbein the Younger painting (1533):

Instrumental music was also popular during the Elizabethan Era. The most popular solo instruments of the time were the virginal and the lute. The virginal was a popular variant of the harpsichord among the English and one of Elizabeth’s favourite instruments to play. Numerous works were produced for the instrument including several collections by William Byrd, namely the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book and Parthenia. The lute strung with sheepgut was the most popular instrument of the age. Lutes could be played as solo instruments or as accompaniment for singers. Compositions of the latter variety were known as lute song. The most popular Elizabethan composer for the lute and of lute songs was John Dowland. Several families of instruments were popular among the English people and were employed for the group music making. If all of the instruments in an ensemble were of the same family they were considered to be in “consort”. Mixed ensembles were said to be in “broken consort”. Both forms of ensembles were equally popular.

In music history, the music of the English Renaissance is noted for its complex polyphonic vocal music, both sacred and secular, and the emergence of instrumental music. With the gradual shift in the early Baroque period, England experienced a decline in musical standing among European nations. After Dowland, the greatest English composer was Henry Purcell, whose death left a void in English music history until the Victorian era.


Enjoy all these beautiful melodies (recorded in 1958) from the past !


Julian Bream (lute)
Peter Pears (vocals)

Various German frontcovers:

01. Fine Knacks For Ladies (Dowland) 2.35
02. Sweet Come Again (Rosseter) 3.46
03. Thyrsis And Milla (Morley) 2.25
04. Sorrow Stay (Dowland) 3.47
05. Come Phyllis Come (Ford) 1.34
06. I Saw My Lady Weeping (Morley) 2.51
07. With My Love My Life Was Nestled (Morley) 1.31
08. Rest, Sweet Nymphs (Pilkington) 4.28
09. What If My Mistress Now (Morley) 1.31
10. Have You Seen But A White Lily Grow? (Anonymous) 1.59
11. Come Let Us Sound With Melody (Campian) 1.51
12. Miserere, My Maker (Anonymous) 3.28
13. What Is A Day? (Rosseter) 1.50
14. Fair If You Expect Admiring (Campian) 1.17
15. Shall I Come Sweet Love? (Campian) 2.56
16. If My Complaints (Dowland) 4.23
17. What If I Never Speed? (Dowland) 1.29
18. Wether Men Do Laugh Or Weep (Rosseter) 1.07



US front + bnackcover from 1966:

More from Julian Bream:

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