Time Stands Still - Elizabethan & Jacobean Songs and Keyboard Music

SIMON PONSFORD (countertenor) recently graduated MA with distinction from the Royal Academy of Music, where he was also awarded the S & M Eyres Wilson Scholarship and a Diploma of the Royal Academy of Music for outstanding performance. As an ensemble singer, Simon has sung with many professional choirs including Polyphony, English Voices and Tenebrae, was an Apprentice in the Monteverdi Choir, and is a founder member of the Platinum Consort. He is currently a lay clerk in the choir of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, and has just been appointed a Lay Vicar in the choir of Westminster Abbey. This is his debut recording as a soloist.

DAVID PONSFORD is an organist, harpsichordist, musicologist and conductor, and an authority on keyboard music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. On graduating from Cambridge, he was appointed Assistant Organist at Wells Cathedral. Later, he studied for a PhD on performance practice in French Baroque organ music with Professor Peter Williams. He is now Associate Lecturer at Cardiff University, where he conducts the University Chamber Orchestra and gives lectures in performance practice. He also teaches organ and harpsichord at Bristol University, and gives series of lectures at Madingley Hall, Cambridge. The first two of a series of CDs of seventeenth and eighteenth-century French organ music recorded on French historic organs were released by Nimbus in 2013.



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'There are moments in his singing on Time Stands Still in which Simon Ponsford’s best intentions are betrayed by his youth, but there are far more moments in which his technical pluck and affinity for the decorous, slightly aloof atmosphere of this music belie his youth. Complemented by performances of a carefully-considered assortment of keyboard works and the inspiritingly collaborative accompaniment of David Ponsford, a new artist makes of old music a winningly euphonious introduction to what will hopefully be a long, fulfilling career before the studio microphones.' Joseph Newsome, Voix des Arts, March 2014

'William Byrd’s Prelude opens this disc with David Ponsford drawing some particularly fine sounds from the virginals.

The songs of John Dowland appropriately feature strongly on this disc, given that he was one of the greatest composers of song in that era and that the 450th anniversary of his birth falls this year. Two of his songs feature next with Simon Ponsford showing much character in his voice in Can she excuse my wrongs? with steady pitch and just a little vibrato at certain parts of his range. He has such a well-controlled upper register and this performance is so full of dynamism. He gives us a lovely Time stands still with long drawn pure tones and a sensitive accompaniment from David Ponsford (virginals).

Philip Rosseter is represented by his song Shall I come if I swim? which again highlights Simon Ponsford’s characterful presentation as well as some lovely phrasing. David Ponsford changes to the organ for Byrd’s wonderful Fantasia in C in a first class performance full of flow, with beautiful phrasing and excellent choice of registration. David Ponsford continues with the organ, accompanying Simon Ponsford in Dowland’s I saw my lady weep with Ponsford handling Dowland’s tricky word setting so well before Dowland’s lively Wilt thou, unkind, thus reave me?

Returning to the virginals, David Ponsford is supremely accomplished in Byrd’s Rowland, or Lord Willoughby’s Welcome home, beautifully done. Thomas Campion’slovely hymn like Never weather beaten sail is a great success, finely sung with such purity of voice as, indeed, is the only unattributed piece in this recital, Miserere, my Maker, with Simon Ponsford’s wonderful high notes capturing the gently sorrowful nature of this piece.

Orlando Gibbons’ Fantasy in A minor receives a fine performance from David Ponsford at the organ, allowing the music to rise and flourish without over embellishing – a grand simplicity. Robert Johnson is represented here by three songs Where the bee sucks, nicely done with varying rhythms, Full fathom five, a song that brings the best from Simon Ponsford with long pure lines in this, another beautifully simple setting and Come, heavy sleep where this countertenor shows his pure beauty of voice with a natural character that gives such a Jacobean period sound to his voice. Time does indeed stand still.

Perhaps Byrd’s best known instrumental piece The woods so wild is played by David Ponsford (virginals) with a lovely rhythmic bounce and wonderful articulation. Dowland returns again with two more songs, In darkness let me dwell where David Ponsford sets the opening scene before Simon Ponsford enters in this well known, typically Elizabethan melancholic song. Here Simon Ponsford has power, purity, fine articulation and such natural feel for the words. Were every thought an eye showing a great flexibility.

Thomas Tomkins is represented by A sad pavane for these distracted times, written in 1649, only days after the execution of King Charles I. David Ponsford playing the virginals draws so much from his instrument, a range of textures that is remarkable for such a small instrument of limited compass. Thomas Ford is a composer that I am unfamiliar with, but his Since first I saw your face is an attractive song, full of life, particularly in this performance.

Dowland returns again with Flow my tears, perhaps the most famous of Dowland’s tunes that he also used in his instrumental workLachrimae, or Seaven Teares and encapsulates so much of the fashionable Elizabethan melancholy. These two artists keep the music flowing ahead without dallying in a performance of directness and pathos. Dowland is in a happier mood with Fine knacks for ladieswhere Simon Ponsford shows the fun of this setting. More fine playing from David Ponsford in Byrd’s Ut re mi fa sol la with such fine phrasing in this lovely little piece.

Dowland returns for the two final pieces on this disc, Awake, sweet love, with some fine singing from Simon Ponsford in this fast flowing piece, nicely phrased and Now, O now I needs must part, a suitable work to end this recital with Dowland returning to his melancholy mood and both artists pacing this just right with fine singing and sensitive accompaniment.

These artists are given a lovely recording from the Parish Church of St John the Baptist, Marldon, Devon and there are informative booklet notes by David Ponsford with full English texts.' TheClassicalReviewer.blogspot, December 2013

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