> PURCELL The Fairy Queen [KM] : Classical Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
The Fairy Queen

Gillian Fisher, soprano
Lorna Anderson, soprano
Ann Murray, mezzo-soprano
Michael Chance, alto
John Mark Ainsley, tenor
Ian Partridge, tenor
Richard Stuart, bass
Michael George, bass
The Sixteen, Harry Christophers
Rec. 1992?, St. Bartholomew’s Church, Orford, Suffolk, England.
CORO COR 16005 [132.24]
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The Fairy Queen is one of Henry Purcell's most popular operas. Full of memorable orchestral music and arias, this work, based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, is very accessible and a real pleasure to listen to again and again. The opera's music has a wide variety of orchestrations, showing Purcell's talent in many registers. This recording, a re-release on the Sixteen’s own label of a recording originally released ten years ago, is bubbling with energy.

Purcell fans were recently fortunate to see another re-release of this work, performed by Roger Norrington, with an equally stellar cast. This set features a group of excellent singers, some in their prime, others coming of age. It is good that this set is again available.

The Sixteen sparkle on this recording. Musically, it sounds as though each section was chiselled to perfection. With the exception of a bit of reverb that sounds artificial when the choir sings, the recording is impeccable. But the high point of this set is, naturally, the solo contribution. Ann Murray is here in her prime, and gives a brilliant rendition of If love’s a sweet passion. Richard Stuart as the drunken poet is outstanding, and Michael Chance sings One charming night with lightness and delicacy.

The choir has a lush, rich sound, and their dynamics and texture are lovely. Together with the orchestra, the music comes across sometimes as regal, sometimes as intimate, covering the full range of music in this work. The instrumental sections are full of drive and rhythm, and the music flows effortlessly from one section to the next, and the overall feeling one has listening to this work is one of pure pleasure.

A fine recording of Purcell’s great opera, graced by a cast of first rate soloists, orchestra and choir, and impeccable sound.

Kirk McElhearn


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