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Brief review: Complete Country Dance Tunes from Playford's The Dancing Master, edited by Jeremy Barlow

Complete Country Dance Tunes from Playford's The Dancing Master, edited by Jeremy Barlow (Faber Music 1986) may be of little interest to most people, but of the highest interest to those interested in its particular subject. Playford's Dancing Master was a collection of traditional songs with basic dance notation which went through numerous editions in the 17th and 18th centuries. It's usually described as a collection of English tunes, but many of them have origins in Scotland, Wales, or other areas. This Faber Music edition is a refinement of all the original editions, giving over 500 tunes in simple musical notation (without lyrics), with notes indicating the variants present in the various original editions. Clearly, this is a specialized book, but for anyone with a serious interest in traditional British tunes, whether as a composer, performer, musicologist, or folklorist, this book is one of fundamental importance. Even as a fan of such music, if you ever have found yourself listening to a CD of old British songs -- the sort of thing for instance that might be heard on some CDs by The Baltimore Consort or The Toronto Consort -- and wishing, "Gee, I wish I had the score for this melody," this book is what you want. Other editions of Playford's music have been published, including at least one facsimile edition, but this edition is the book most interested people will want.

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