The Woods so Wild

In Brief

  • Title: The Woods so Wild, Julian Bream Edition Volume 4.
  • Musician: Julian Bream.
  • Identification: 09026 61587 2.
  • Recording dates: June, July 1972, April 1976, the CD is remastered version of the analogue recording.
  • Year of Issue: 1993.

La Compagna by Francesco da Milano


If you are just starting to build a collection of records with classical guitar music, you might find many “Firsts”. In this case The Woods so Wild, played on lute by Julian Bream, became my first ever lute album with Renaissance music.

Consequently, I got in touch with the great 16th Century English composers John Dowland, William Byrd, Anthony Holborne and Francis Cutting. Additionally, I became acquainted with the music by the in his days famous Italian Francesco da Milano. It yielded me a love for Renaissance music, I wanted to play it, even with the capo on the third fret (although initiates claim that the capo should be on the second fret instead to reconstruct the sound).

Two things are quite obvious, playing this CD. First the bright and at times almost shrill sound of the lute, particularly in the ponticello passages (hey, is that possible on a Lute?) and second the sheer quality of Bream’s play. It is very obvious on this CD that Bream’s heart lies with the lute. He makes a fine performance on this pretty old recording indeed!

Sometimes I wondered what kind of strings Bream uses on this lute, because in my mind cat’s gut strings sound duller. Sorry cat lovers (I am one myself), it’s a historical fact that animal material was used to make strings before metal and nylon strings took hold for the guitar.

The Woods so Wild is an interesting mix between pure cultural music – Fantasia’s and Fancies – and theme/variation pieces based on popular English songs from those days, like The Woods so Wild, Greensleeves and Go from my Window.

The CD is a compilation, the first 18 pieces originate from the original LP from 1972, three pieces by Dowland are added as bonus tracks.

On the original vinyl album, almost half of the tracks were dedicated to the Fantasias by Francesco da Milano. Complex polyphonic music with an eloquence that survived the ages. I was so impressed by Bream’s interpretation of this music that I have learnt to play two Fantasias myself, La Compagna en Fantasia. 😉 That’s quite a long time ago by now, I will have to start all over again to perform them now!

The same spin-off was valid for the English pieces. Packington’s Pound, Walsingham, Heigh Ho Holiday, Go from my Window and Greensleeves in the Cutting version became part of my repertoire.

The old LP ended with the moving Loth to Depart by John Dowland. It’s almost a pity that the current CD has a few pieces after that, even though Farewell by Dowland gives the CD a worthy ending too.

In brief, The Woods so Wild is a beautiful and well-played compilation of lute music that is a sure sign that this music deserves it to be discovered and played in our days!

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