The new production of Purcell's The Fairy Queen launched in 1995 by the English National Opera (ENO) was received with great enthusiasm by both the public and musical press. This atmospheric production was prepared by David Pountney, Robert Israel created the stage set, Dunya Ramicova was responsible for costume design and Quinny Sacks was responsible for the choreography of the dance roles as well as the numerous breathtaking ballet scenes. Under the musical direction of Nicholas Kok, the English National Orchestra played a baroque music which was as crystal clear as it was expressively infectious. Next to outstanding performers of the dancing roles such as Puck (Simon Rice) and the Indian boy (Arthur Pita), an entire armada of excellent singers was summoned up such as one seldom experiences together on the baroque opera stage. These included Yvonne Kenny as Titania, Thomas Randle as Oberon and Richard Van Allan as King Theseus. Jonathan Best, with his comic portrayal of the drunken poet, was loved by the audience and praised highly by the press, while other singers like Michael Chance, Mary Hegarthy, Janis Kelly, Marc Le Brocq and Christopher Ross all contributed their talents to produce an unusual musical theatre experience that has been masterfully preserved on this DVD.
The viol consort was introduced to England in the early sixteenth century and was mainstay of domestic music until the middle of the seventeenth century. After the Restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660, things rapidly changed with the rise in popularity of the violin amongst court musical lfe and amateurs. Composers soon ceased to contribute to the viol consort repertory, with some of Purcell's contemporaries such as Roger North regretting the change. North acknowledged that the violin was 'very excellent in it's kind', but thought that the 'noble Base Viol' embodied all its 'sublimitys'. As North recognised, the viol was not entirely supplanted by the violin in the Restoration period. The bass viol remained in use as a continuo instrument in chamber music until the early eighteenth century, and the instrument acquired a new repertory of solos, duet and trios with continuo. This recording is a survey of this little-known but rewarding repertory.
The young, virtuoso a cappella ensemble VOCES8 return to disc on Signum with a sumptuous collection of early works by Henry Purcell, one of England’s greatest composers. Joined by the specialist early music ensemble ‘Les Inventions’, the group explores Purcell’s astoundingly diverse output. There is hardly a genre in which he did not express himself: anthems, odes, funeral music, semi–operas, masques, sonatas, consort–music, songs and catches populate his extraordinarily multifaceted oeuvre. It is this astonishing diversity that Signum and VOCES8 celebrate.
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.