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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Henry Purcell, The Indian Queen, The Sixteen, Harry Christophers

For the wealth of Baroque composers we can appreciate, a comparison of JS Bach and Henry Purcell is instructive for the vivid contrast their music presents to us. Where Bach can be profound, deeply contrapuntal and multi-lined in emphasis, Purcell is expressive, contrapuntal yet often emphasising a main melodic thread. Bach excels in the sacred and the serious, Purcell the secular and jubilant. This is a gross simplification, of course. But it tends to hold true.

We can hear Henry Purcell at his best in this light on a recording of operatic music for the theater, The Indian Queen, performed beautifully by the Sixteen under Harry Christophers (Coro 16129). It is sandwiched between Purcell's brief preludish "Catch" for three vocalists and the concluding choral work by Daniel Purcell (1664-1717), "The Masque of Hymen." Daniel was either the younger brother or cousin of Henry and his music here is a nice bonus.

The centerpiece work gets the emphasis and of course that's as it should be. I am not as familiar with this work as I am of others by Purcell but it is a winning one and the Sixteen vocalists and instrumentalists give it all the spirit and dash it deserves.

The music contains in plenty the memorability and zest we expect from such a Purcell work. Vocalists and instrumentalists excel and realize Christophers' high standards and period authenticity with enthusiasm and true artistry.

It is delightful in every way! Any early music or general classicist needs a good dash of Purcell in her/his collection. This one is as essential as any. It's the Sixteen giving us another major triumph.

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