This is an attractive recording, offering a varied cross-section
of seventeenth-century English music in three major forms, the
accompanied song, the violin sonata and the solo keyboard sonata.
The best-known of the composers is, of course Henry Purcell and
his works are interspersed amongst some of his most talented contemporaries
throughout the CD, which opens with his Music for a While
and closes with his Evening Hymn.
I had not encountered Jette Rosendal before. She
has a sweet-toned and attractive soprano voice, somewhat reminiscent
of Emma Kirkby, though, if anything, a little more powerful
than Kirkby, whose erstwhile pupil she was. It was natural
that she should begin the programme with the best-known piece
here, Music for a While, but she is not quite at her
best here. Her voice tends not to be ideal when she pushes
it, and she does push it a little too hard in this piece. Nevertheless,
I was sufficiently impressed to want to hear more, and she gets
better as the disc progresses.
Track 3, Rosseter’s When Laura Smiles brings
that expected improvement – I doubt whether Emma Kirkby herself
could have offered a much better performance of that or the
second Rosseter song on the next track, What is Love,
better known by its refrain ‘Come away, my darling’.
Thereafter I have little cause for complaint except
to note that occasionally she does push the voice too hard;
sustained notes and transitions occasionally tail off very slightly
flat. Another Purcell item, Sweeter than roses (tr.
10) is her least impressive performance – again, I thought she
tried just a little too hard.
Her English diction is not ideal, though mostly
one forgets that she is not a native speaker. In the opening
line of Lawes’ The Lark (tr.12), the word ‘glide’ sounds
rather odd. There is philological evidence that the long i
was the last of the vowels to settle into its modern diphthong
form, that it was pronounced oi in Shakespeare’s time
and possibly for quite some time afterwards. There are one
or two other places where I wasn’t sure if she was trying to
reproduce 17th-century pronunciation – if so, I wish
she wouldn’t: it’s a hazardous enterprise at the best of times
in most languages.
I don’t think, however, that she really is attempting
to be authentic. It’s more the fact that diction is not her
strong point – she has a Sutherland-like tendency to mask her
words and she really needs to work on this.
Her affective performance of the second Lawes song,
Sleep Soft (tr.13) is much more impressive, as are the
last three Purcell works on the CD. If music be the food
of love (tr.15) is good, Fairest Isle (tr.16) even
better and, after a fine account of Croft’s Sonata in g,
The Evening Hymn (tr.18) rounds off the CD in fine form.
I’d like to hear her now in more extended repertoire
– I note, for example, that she has sung in Purcell’s King
Arthur and in Handel’s Acis and Galatea; I suppose
it’s too much to hope that some enterprising company would record
her in one of those works.
She is also an accomplished
performer on the baroque violin, as she demonstrates in the Violin
Sonata in D by Daniel Purcell, brother of the more famous
Henry. She almost persuades me that this piece is worthy to be
ranked alongside Henry’s chamber music. On the penultimate track
(tr.17) she also makes a strong case for Croft’s Sonata in
g. Interestingly, the tone of her violin (a 1760 instrument
by Johan Georg) matches that of her voice – what it lacks in mellowness
it makes up for in clarity and brightness. Returning to the Purcell
Quartet’s splendid performances of Henry Purcell’s music, however,
shows what is missing in the music of these two contemporaries
(CHAN8591, 8663 and 8763, available as downloads only from theclassicalshop.net
– see review).
Colin Booth accompanies excellently throughout,
never overwhelming Rosendal in the vocal items and acting as
an able partner in the violin sonatas, but he does more than
that. On track 2 he performs the first of the solo pieces,
Blow’s Voluntary in A, on a chamber organ. The CD literally
could not have happened without him, since he has made all of
the keyboard instruments employed – harpsichord, spinet and
Booth makes a very good case for all the solo keyboard
pieces here. His performances of Croft’s Suite No.14
(track 5) Voluntary in g (track 8) and Sonata in g
(track 17) demonstrate that composer’s talents in areas different
from the one work for which he is remembered by posterity, his
Burial Service. I got to know that work long ago on
a 7” Argo King’s College recording and really hadn’t thought
of him since in any other capacity. His Hymn on Divine Music
(tr.6) is also a fine piece, even if all his music does clearly
mark him as a pupil of Blow and associate of Purcell.
After Rosseter, who doesn’t really belong here,
since he died long before the Restoration – indeed, well before
the preceding Republic – and Lawes, who barely lived to see
the Restoration, the oldest is Blow. Once again, his Voluntary
in A (tr.2) and Suite in d (tr.11) reveal him in
music different from the anthems and other church music with
which he is mostly now associated. To redress the balance still
further, let me also recommend the inexpensive René Jacobs version
of his Venus and Adonis on Harmonia Mundi Gold HMG50
1684. It’s just been ‘promoted’ from low- to mid-price, but
you may still find the odd copy of that cheaper reissue on HMX290
1684. There’s also a fine Pickett version on Oiseau-Lyre 478
0019 at around the same price.
The recording is good, with the performers placed
at just the right distance – Rosendal very slightly too forward,
perhaps, in the vocal items – in a credible ambience.
The whole production is well presented, with an
attractive cover picture of Rosendal’s violin and one of Booth’s
keyboard instruments, repeated on the CD label. The notes are
brief but to the point, explaining how Rosendal and Booth formed
their ensemble Restoration, whose name is prominent in the CD
title – its double meaning refers to their rediscovery of music
associated with the Restoration period in English history, after
Charles II’s return to the throne, itself known as The Restoration,
marked the end of the Puritan Republic. There are also brief
notes on each of the composers and on the performers.
Along with this Restoration CD I received a review
copy of Colin Booth’s 2-CD set on his own Soundboard label of
Mattheson’s Keyboard Suites of 1714, which I hope to review shortly.
First impressions are certainly favourable. Though the present
recording is not a Soundboard production, it is available to order
from their website.
Those looking for
a Baroque anthology a little different from the average should
be well pleased with this disc.