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Studio Rhetorica, Daniel Thomson, Thomas Leininger & Terry McKenna | Secret Fires of Love

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Classical: Early Music Classical: Baroque Moods: Type: Vocal
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Secret Fires of Love

by Studio Rhetorica, Daniel Thomson, Thomas Leininger & Terry McKenna

The artists take a fresh approach to Renaissance and Baroque song, combining rhetoric and music in dramatic ways that have not been heard since the 17th and 18th centuries.
Genre: Classical: Early Music
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Quarto scherzo delle ariose vaghezze: Sì dolce è'l tormento
Studio Rhetorica, Daniel Thomson & Terry McKenna
3:10 $0.99
2. Le nuove musiche: Dolcissimo sospiro
Studio Rhetorica, Daniel Thomson & Terry McKenna
2:40 $0.99
3. Le premier livre de guiterne: Prelude (Adapted from Fantasie 1)
Studio Rhetorica & Terry McKenna
0:50 $0.99
4. Canzon napolitane a tre voci, libro secondo: Villanella ch’all’acqua vai
Studio Rhetorica, Daniel Thomson & Terry McKenna
3:04 $0.99
5. Le nuove musiche: Amor, io parto
Studio Rhetorica, Daniel Thomson & Terry McKenna
3:49 $0.99
6. Jane Pickeringe Lute Book: A Galyard
Studio Rhetorica & Terry McKenna
1:22 $0.99
7. Two Bookes of Ayres: The Peacefull Westerne Winde
Studio Rhetorica, Daniel Thomson & Terry McKenna
4:13 $0.99
8. The Second Booke of Songs or Ayres: Sorrow Stay
Studio Rhetorica, Daniel Thomson & Terry McKenna
4:42 $0.99
9. Cambridge University Library, Ms Dd.2.11: Prelude
Studio Rhetorica & Terry McKenna
0:30 $0.99
10. Two Bookes of Ayres: There Is None, O None but You
Studio Rhetorica, Daniel Thomson & Terry McKenna
2:07 $0.99
11. A Choice Collection of Lessons: Prelude – Orpheus Britannicus: If Musick Be the Food of Love
Studio Rhetorica, Daniel Thomson & Thomas Leininger
4:30 $0.99
12. A Choice Collection of Lessons: Prelude – Yale University, Osborn Music Ms 9: Fairest Isle
Studio Rhetorica, Daniel Thomson & Thomas Leininger
2:38 $0.99
13. The Songs in the Indian Queen: I Attempt from Love’s Sickness to Fly
Studio Rhetorica, Daniel Thomson & Thomas Leininger
1:42 $0.99
14. Melothesia: Prelude – London, Guildhall Library, Ms Safe 3: Not All My Torments
Studio Rhetorica, Daniel Thomson & Thomas Leininger
3:30 $0.99
15. Orpheus Britannicus: What a Sad Fate Is Mine
Studio Rhetorica, Daniel Thomson & Thomas Leininger
3:21 $0.99
16. Curtio precipitato et altri capricii, libro secondo: Folle è ben che si crede
Studio Rhetorica, Daniel Thomson & Thomas Leininger
4:04 $0.99
17. 12 cantate da camera a voce sola: Amor, sorte, destino
Studio Rhetorica, Daniel Thomson & Thomas Leininger
8:01 $0.99
18. Suits of the Most Celebrated Lessons: Prelude – Staatsbibliothek Zu Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Mus.ms. 30186: Dopo tante e tante pene
Studio Rhetorica, Daniel Thomson & Thomas Leininger
7:24 $0.99
19. Caro mio ben
Studio Rhetorica, Daniel Thomson & Thomas Leininger
3:33 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
"a stellar cast ...
Thomson ... his muscular, precise voice is pure joy ...
McKenna ... a commanding [lute & guitar] performance ...
Leininger ... a German master of the harpsichord"
Robert Tomas, The WholeNote (March 2018)

"clever in concept ... each [track] exhibits a real sense of character ... these are musicians of such a high calibre ... I have been overwhelmingly satisfied ... I cannot recommend this album enough"
Alexandra Burns, Classicalexburns Album Review (16 March 2018)

"of the utmost importance ... this disc is the result of much research of historical sources and deserves the attention of every performer ... it is so nice to hear here how [recitative] should be done ... [the album] could change the way vocal music is performed quite drastically"
Johan van Veen, MusicWeb International (February 2019)

Secret Fires of Love tells the story of intense love through songs ranging from the amorous yearnings for a country lass to the burning desires of tormented souls. This exploration of the multifaceted outpourings of lovers focuses on some of the most dramatic music written between the late 16th and 18th centuries, a time when performers prized the impassioned delivery of texts. During the era, vocalists personified songs to make the characters they represented actually seem to appear before listeners, personifications designed to move audiences to experience the very emotions they as performers felt. In a sense, the singers became the victims of love as they told their stories.

Each song in this collection considers a different aspect of the subject, and the album begins with late 16th- and early 17th-century Italian treatments of love. “Si dolce è’l tormento,” one of Monteverdi’s most inspired accounts of false hope, deals with the cruelty of a beautiful woman, and although her merciless heart causes infinite pain, in the end, repentant and languishing, she will sigh for the person whose faith is as steady as a rock. Monteverdi’s contemporary Giulio Caccini, however, embraces the notion that a sigh, especially a sweet one, could soften bitter pain, but in “Dolcissimo sospiro,” the martyr in Caccini’s story worries that such a sigh might wander off to someone else. In the anonymous “Villanella ch’all’acqua vai,” a gentleman idolizes a country lass from afar, not caring if she is born without grace in the middle of the woods. He expresses his unending adoration through cries of “ahime” (alas) meant to mark the pain of death he feels each time his gaze falls upon her. Considerable pain also afflicts the departing lover in Caccini’s “Amor, io parto,” for the woman he is leaving remains deadened to his languishing heart.

English poets and songwriters, equally powerful in their depictions of love, sometimes take a gentler view of this human condition, and Campion’s “The peacefull westerne winde” begins with a description of the arrival of spring, before it considers the fate of one who suffers at the hands of a beauty justly accused (“Am I the worst of men?”). Dowland does not mention love explicitly in “Sorrow stay,” yet the plight of his “wretched wight” can easily be interpreted as the endless pain felt by a lover who falls ever deeper into torment, never to rise again. Campion then lifts the spirits of listeners with “There is none, O none but you,” a song that celebrates the love a woman has found in a “man so true” and a man in a “woman halfe so faire.”

Henry Purcell extols the virtues of music’s ability to provide sustenance for love in “If musick be the food of love,” and though the feast for the lover’s senses is only “sound,” he will perish from those charms unless the woman he adores saves him in her arms. “Fairest Isle,” the place where Venus chooses to dwell, welcomes the sighs of soft complaint that “blow the fire of love,” but in “I attempt from love’s sickness to fly,” love holds so much more power than fate that it causes the lover to experience inescapable fever and pain. This sort of sickness gives way to the pervasive despair of “Not all my torments.” Love, the text proposes, can increase a woman’s scorn to such an extent that a man must bear his sorrows to the grave. “What a sad fate is mine,” on the other hand, not only declares that love is a crime but also suggests that a woman’s disdain might lessen her lover’s pain, especially if he loved less while she loved more.

Merula’s “Folle è ben che si crede” views faithfulness through the lens of amorous flattery, as well as disdainful threats, and concedes that once a heart has been entrapped by a fair idol, it could never be dragged from its “secret fire of love.” Moreover, only a fool would try to break the bonds of that precious lace. Albinoni’s “Amor, sorte, destino” takes a more expansive approach to narrative, for its recitatives and arias allow several aspects of a story to be explored. Love, fate, and destiny once encouraged Chloris’ affection but now take that love away, and without her, the tormented soul in this cantata would prefer death. His afflicted heart cannot enjoy a single cheerful day, and in the end, he hopes that at the very least her heart will not be ungrateful. Conti’s cantata “Dopo tante e tante pene” focuses on the pain of jealous love, and the opening aria speaks of a cruel separation that has ended. The lover expresses doubt about the woman’s fidelity during this estrangement, and his suspicions fill him with torment. But jealousy has had a remarkable effect – it has increased his considerable fire for her – and in the final aria, we learn that his flame will never be extinguished. “Caro mio ben” brings this consideration of love to a close with advice well suited to all lovers: end harsh cruelty, so the victim’s heart can cease its languishing.

In Secret Fires of Love, the performers take a fresh approach to Renaissance and Baroque songs by treating the texts freely to transform inexpressive notation into passionate musical declamation. Daniel Thomson adopts the persona of a storyteller, and like singers of the past, he uses techniques of rhetorical delivery to re-create the natural style of performance listeners from the era would have heard (all the principles of performance Daniel employs are documented in period treatises on singing and speaking). This requires him to alter the written scores substantially, and his dramatic singing combines rhetoric and music in ways that have not been heard since the Renaissance and Baroque eras.

Daniel sings prosodically, emphasizing important words and giving the appropriate weight to accented and unaccented syllables; employs a highly articulated manner of phrasing; alters tempo frequently through rhythmic rubato and the quickening and slowing of the overall time; restores messa di voce, the swelling and diminishing of individual notes and across phrases, to its rightful place as the “soul of music” (Corri, The Singer’s Preceptor, 1810); contrasts the tonal qualities of chest and head voice as part of his expression; renders recitative in the half spoken/half sung manner common in the 18th century; applies portamento; and introduces a variety of graces and divisions into the songs.

Among these principles, highly articulated phrasing, alterations of tempo, and variations in the tonal quality of the voice represent the most noticeable departures from modern practice. Singers of the past inserted grammatical and rhetorical pauses to compartmentalize thoughts and emotions into easily discernible units (stops at punctuation marks and in places where the sense of the sentence called for them), and this frequent pausing gave listeners time to reflect on what they had just heard so they could readily grasp the changing sentence structure. In 1587, Francis Clement (The Petie Schole) explained the rationale behind the addition of unnotated pauses: “the breath is relieved, the meaning conceived, ... the eare delited, and all the senses satisfied.”

Moreover, writers from Nicola Vicentino (L’antica musica ridotta alla moderna prattica, 1555) to Giambattista Mancini (Pensieri, e riflessioni pratiche sopra il canto figurato, 1774) observe that singers best convey the true sense and meaning of words in a natural way if they derive the pacing of their delivery from the emotions in each text segment. Or to use Vicentino’s words, tempo fluidity has “a great effect on the soul / effetto assai nell’animo.” Similarly, the use of appropriate vocal timbres to carry the text’s emotions to the ears of listeners requires singers not only to differentiate their registers (so that the lowest and highest parts of the range contrast with the middle portion) but also to link timbre and emotion (smooth and sweet, thin and choked, harsh and rough) – “the greater the passion is, the less musical will be the voice that expresses it” (Anfossi, Trattato teorico-pratico sull’arte del canto, c.1840). In earlier eras, a versatile tonal palette prevented the monotony of what one writer in 1905 dismissed as the “school of sensuously pretty voice-production” (Ffrangcon-Davies, The Music of the Future). Indeed, as Ffrangcon-Davies suggests, the then new monochromatic approach to timbre meant that if audiences had heard a singer in one role, they had heard that singer in every role.

Terry McKenna and Thomas Leininger mirror the passionate drama of the stories through their styles of accompaniment. In fact, their refined executions of the continuo parts not only vary according to the emotional requirements of the music but also approach the level of improvised composition. Both players personalize the music by completing the creative processes the composers had merely begun, and their accompaniments further Daniel’s personifications of the characters he represents. They reinforce emphatic moments, provide textural contrasts, arpeggiate according to the nature of the words, echo vocal phrases where appropriate, and generally support Daniel’s eloquent delivery in a sympathetic manner. In addition, Terry and Thomas add preludial music to specific songs to set the stage for the stories that follow, and in four cases (“Si dolce è'l tormento,” “Sorrow stay,” “Folle è ben che si crede,” and the cantata “Amor, sorte, destino”), they provide short extemporaneous preludes.

The tracks have an intimate sound modeled on the small rooms in which the music would have been performed originally. In fact, the recordings are designed to make listeners feel as though they are sitting in the same modest space as the artists.

The Australian tenor Daniel Thomson, originally from Melbourne, now lives in London (UK). Daniel performs in the UK, Switzerland, and Australia and is a core member of Emma Kirkby’s Dowland Works, as well as the ensemble Lux Musicae London. In Melbourne, he has performed with The Consort of Melbourne, La Compañia, and recently Ensemble 642 (“Daniel’s fine, light instrument is a joy to listen to ... clarity, agility and textual empathy were all displayed in abundance” – Limelight Live Reviews, June 2017). He received acclaim in the recording Destino Mexicana (LCR/Fuse) with La Compañia (“Thomson [is] excellent ... with just the right touch of Iberian warmth” – International Record Review, October 2014).

The Canadian lutenist/guitarist Terry McKenna performs with the Toronto Consort and can be heard on their many recordings (Marquis Classics, Dorian), as well as his solo lute project Throw the House Out of the Windowe (Marquis Classics). He also has appeared with Ensemble Polaris, Fool’s Paradyce, Puirt a Baroque, Sylvia Tyson, Opera Atelier, the Toronto Masque Theatre, Nota Bene Baroque Players, and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Terry teaches at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario.

The German harpsichordist Thomas Leininger teaches at the Schola Cantorum in Basel and has performed with Cappriccio Basel, Neues Zürcher Orchester, and the Stuttgarter Kammerorchester, as well as at opera houses in Barcelona, Hannover, Linz, and Lucerne. He has recorded Handel sonatas with Sven Schwannberger (recorder) and two discs of 17th-century sonatas and songs with the ensemble Il vero modo (Thorofon).

The three performers came together under the musical direction of Robert Toft, and the approach taken is based on his extensive research (Bel Canto: A Performer’s Guide – OUP, 2013; With Passionate Voice: Re-Creative Singing in Sixteenth-Century England and Italy – OUP, 2014). Robert works with singers interested in historical performance, and he has given master classes at leading conservatories and music schools in Australia, Austria, Britain, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, and the USA. Robert’s home base is in the Faculty of Music at Western University (London, Canada).

Produced by Robert Toft (Talbot Records – London, Canada)

Recorded at EMAC Recording Studios, London, Canada (ProTools|HD at 24 bits, 96 kHz), 30 September - 3 October 2015, 12-15 July 2016

Recorded with the financial assistance of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

Album Artwork: Image – Hans Sebald Beham, Venus, from “The Seven Planets” series (1539); National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne / Felton Bequest, 1923 (1278.582-3); used with permission.

Talbot Records, TP 1701



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