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WQXR (New York), December 2012

The Most Popular Classical Albums of 2012

On “Two Lutes,” the lutenists Ronn McFarlane and William Simms resurrect nearly 30 English Renaissance duets. © 2012 WQXR (New York)

Benjamin Katz
American Record Guide, November 2012

The ‘Eccho or Allmane’ for two lutes by Marchant and Pilkington is a fine introduction to the lute-duet genre. The echo effect gives the listener a chance to attune the ears to each instrument. Danyel’s ‘Passamezzo’ is a composition of great gravity and poetry. Kaleidoscopic arpeggiation and sly chromatic asides capture the ear in this piece. In the lovely, flowing triplets at the end, the composer’s lyrical side shines through. McFarlane and Simms have an easy, amiable rapport. They play as equal partners, and it is a pleasure to hear. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

Michael Schwartz
The WholeNote, September 2012

Ronn McFarlane and William Simms have gone well beyond formal compositions by Elizabethan composers—the anonymous Robin is to the Greenwood Gone is performed with a dedication and passion which Dowland and his contemporaries would have felt honoured by.

This reviewer tried to make notes while listening to the duets. He was persistently but very happily prevented by the sheer pleasure of their content. © 2012 The WholeNote Read complete review

WETA, August 2012

McFarlane is back in this new recording with Williams Simms, who was the theorbo and Baroque guitar player in the Vivaldi recording.

This recording is a treasure not to be missed, and of particular local interest…these exquisite performances by McFarlane and Simms bring the lute to life, illustrating clearly that it’s not just for continuo, but a beautiful and unique voice in a collegial, convivial setting…revel in these delicious sounds; nothing at all like Robinson’s “Catt in a gutter.” © 2012 WETA Read complete review

WQXR (New York), July 2012

On “Two Lutes,” the lutenists Ronn McFarlane and William Simms recapture nearly 30 of these duets, most of which are seldom performed today.

“It feels like a conversation, with each lutenist posing musical questions and answers throughout,” McFarlane explains of the music in the album’s liner notes. At times the chordal accompaniment is very simple and repetitive, and a skilled player would want to vary his or her part to make it more satisfying. In this recording, the improvising skills of Simms come to the fore.

…Simms and McFarlane approach the recording with an air of warmth and accessibility. © 2012 WQXR (New York) Read complete review, July 2012

Two Lutes delves into the 16th century and a bit into the early 17th, primarily featuring lute duets by John Johnson (1540-1594), John Danyel (1564-after 1625), John Dowland (1563-1626) and Thomas Robinson (c. 1560-1610). There are also a few works by other composers and a number of anonymous ones, some of the latter being quite well-known—Greensleeves and La Rossignol, to mention two. McFarlane and Simms balance their instruments with care and bring out the melodic and contrapuntal lines of all 27 short works on this Sono Luminus CD with skill and some very adept finger work. None of the pieces especially stands out on its own—not even Dowland’s—but taken as a whole, they provide an involving and intricate listening experience using instruments and musical forms too pleasing to the ear to have fallen into total obscurity since the Renaissance (when the lute was the most popular of all instruments). © 2012 Read complete review

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