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Restoration – Treasures of the English Baroque
Henry PURCELL (1659-95)
Music for a While [3:42]
John BLOW (1649-1708)
Voluntary in A [3:14]
Philip ROSSETER (1567/8-1623)
When Laura Smiles [2:20]
What then is Love? [1:47]
William CROFT (1678-1727)
Suite No. 14 in g minor [4:40]
A Hymn on Divine Music [4:54]
Daniel PURCELL (1665?-1717)
Violin Sonata in D [5:17]
William CROFT
Voluntary in g minor [2:39]
Henry PURCELL
What a Sad Fate [3:01]
Sweeter than Roses [3:02]
John BLOW
Suite in d minor [5:16]
Henry LAWES (1595-1662)
The Lark [2:13]
Sleep Soft [2:31]
Henry PURCELL
Voluntary in G [3:26]
If Music Be the Food of Love [2:13]
Fairest Isle [4:37]
William CROFT
Sonata in g minor [5:53]
Henry PURCELL
The Evening Hymn [5:02]
Jette Rosendal (soprano and baroque violin);
Colin Booth (harpsichord, spinet and organ)
rec. Gosner kirke, Denmark, 11-13 July 2008 DDD; Booklet with texts
CD CLASSICS CDK1002 [65:52] 

 

Experience Classicsonline


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 organ. 

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.

Brian Wilson


 


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