Compilations are highly useful in understanding the works of the inexhaustibly tuneful British composer Henry Purcell (1659-1695). He had a few big hits, like the Funeral Music for Queen Mary (which is included here) and the opera Dido and Aeneas (which isn't). But much of his best music is scattered around in small bits, residing within genres that are rather odd from today's perspective. Purcell spent much of his short adult life as a theater composer, and his incidental music, for example, is filled with perfect miniatures…
This recording of duets by the great composers of the Restoration is one of the gems of Hyperion’s catalogue. It features the celebrated countertenors James Bowman and Michael Chance at the peak of their powers, and the combination of their two voices with the sympathetic accompaniment of The King’s Consort creates something uniquely glorious.
Ever since Beethoven wrote his last piano sonata and called it "Opus 111", the number 111 has enjoyed certain kudos in musical circles, and 2009 marks the 111th anniversary of Deutsche Grammophon.
Over 11 decades, the label's philosophy has always been “the greatest recordings by the greatest artists in the world” and now they showcase this with this incredible 55 CD box set.
Purcell’s song output is extensive. Zimmerman, in his analytical catalogue of his music, the Z numbers in the heading, identifies five categories. All are represented in the nineteen songs of this anthology from Carolyn Sampson.
Harpist Giovanna Pessi has previously been heard on ECM recordings with Christian Wallumrod and with Rolf Lislevand. On her first leader date for ECM she introduces a unique project of old and new songs in which 17th century pieces by Henry Purcell are interspersed with 20th century ballads of Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake and 21st century songs of Susanna Wallumrod, all rendered timeless by the ‘early music’ instrumentation and Susanna’s pure, understated vocal style.
King's Consort produces another brilliant interpretation and performance of works by Henry Purcell. This collection of Purcell's solo secular songs (though some, as the previous review mentions, have short duets within them) is superbly sung all around. A note on the vocals, they aren't the most "early music" vocals you'll find. The singers all certainly demand attention, but for me, I think that's perfectly fine. The very subdued singing that some take to Baroque music seems to detract from the emotion of these pieces–emotion that is clearly intended from the text painting. However, they also aren't sung in an unnecessarily grandiose way or with too much drive. Frankly, it's just right.
Enjoy some really wonderful Purcell, including two beautifully sung duets with soprano Patricia Petibon and tenor Jean-François Novelli, and a lovely performance of Francesco Mancini's solo soprano cantata Quanto dolce è quell'ardore.