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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
O Solitude

If music be the food of love
The fatal hour comes on apace
What a sad fate is mine
While Thirsis, wrapp’d in downy sleep
I attempt from love's sickness
Ask me to love no more
Beneath a dark and melancholy grove
If pray'rs and tears
Incassum Lesbia
In Cloris all soft charms agree
A thousand sev’ral ways I tried to hide
Bacchus is a pow’r divine
Yours Thirsis’ fate ye hills and groves deplore

An evening Hymn (Now, now that the sun hath veil'd his light)
Gerard Lesne, alto
Il Seminario Musicale
Bruno Cocset, basse de violon
Blandine Rannou, harpsichord and positive organ
Pascal Monteilhet, theorbo
Rec. October 2002, Chapelle de l'école Sainte Geneviève, Versailles, France.
NAÏVE E8882 [59.08]


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When reviewing classical recordings, the reviewer often listens closely for the details, the tiny, almost imperceptible bits that make a recording good or less good. A soloist's phrasing, a singer's timbre, a violinist's tone - all these can add up to make or break a recording. But this sometimes means we miss the forest for the trees, and don't step back to look at the big picture.

Occasionally, one comes across a recording that incites this big-picture examination. This disc is one such recording. Gerard Lesne's latest recording as a soloist is a selection of songs by the great English composer Henry Purcell. These fifteen songs are neither a collection nor a group of songs, but rather a selection of songs from throughout Purcell's career, some written individually, others written for the stage.

What is it about this recording that makes it so good? Perhaps it is the subtle emotions the musicians and singer give to the music; perhaps it is Gerard Lesne's fine voice, which, in spite of some imperfect diction at times, sounds as though the songs were written for it. Perhaps it is the quality of the musicians accompanying Lesne, three of the finest soloists currently performing baroque music in France.

Whatever the reason, this disc is near-perfect. The atmosphere ranges from emotive to playful, the music is excellent, the recording astounding. In addition, the program itself is chosen with great taste - the ordering of the songs is very fitting, and the insertion of short instrumental pieces from time to time gives it a great deal of variety.

For those unfamiliar with Purcell's excellent output of small-scale vocal music this is an ideal introduction. For fans of Purcell, this is a must-have recording.

Kirk McElhearn

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