Songs from Our Ancestors: Music by John Dowland, Ruan Ji, Benjamin Britten, Franz Schubert, Xu Changjun, Dominick Argento, Chen Yi, Stephen Goss and Anonymous

Reviewed on Fri 18 Nov, 2016

It’s Xuefei Yang’s characterful guitar that steals the limelight throughout, notably so in the rarefied subtleties of Stephen Goss’s settings of ancient Chinese poetry, Book of Songs (commissioned by the duo), and in the beguilingly exotic and evocative Chinese pieces.

A first disc from London’s Globe Theatre offers a fine introduction for those outside the capital to the venue’s musical programme. Recorded in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse (the intimate, indoor Jacobean theatre complementing the open-air replica of Shakespeare’s own theatre), it pairs tenor Ian Bostridge with the guitarist Xuefei Yang for an eclectic recital blending songs and instrumental pieces by John Dowland, Britten, Schubert and Dominick Argento with three items by Chinese composers. It’s Yang’s characterful guitar that steals the limelight throughout, notably so in the rarefied subtleties of Stephen Goss’s settings of ancient Chinese poetry, Book of Songs (commissioned by the duo), and in the beguilingly exotic and evocative Chinese pieces. Bostridge errs on the side of archness in the Dowland songs but is more secure in the Schubert and altogether communicative in the Goss. Recorded sound is excellent and the packaging lavish, albeit curiously omitting some texts. Even so, a promising start from a label to watch.
–Michael Quinn