This is a uniformly excellent disc. Its centrepiece
is The Tempest, a kind of semi-opera the exact compositional authorship
of which remains somewhat obscure. Of the arias and choruses only one
– Dear Petty Youth – seems definitively to be by Purcell. The
remainder was quite possibly attributed to him post mortem, although
Arise, arise ye subterranean winds has long been a popular calling
card for bass-baritones down the years (vide Norman Allin and John Brownlee).
Its attribution to Purcell now seems dubious at best both on stylistic
grounds and those of limitations of compositional time, though only
a pedant would forego the huge pleasure to be found both in the music
and the performance to be found in this disc recorded in 1997 and issued
The source material for the recording is to be found
in an early eighteenth copy in the library of the University of Toronto
which contains small variants from other known copies and conductor
Kevin Mallon has himself has carried out small reconstructive surgery.
The work begins with the French-style Overture imported from another
source and ends with the magnificent Chacony Z 730. I found their approach
to Purcell very much more than attractive. There is an unstylised and
relaxed musicality to the shaping of melodic contours that is immediately
sympathetic and sounds absolutely right. Furthermore I detected no evidence
of over nuanced phrasing or of professorial or academic impositions.
The orchestra is aptly sized, stylistically cohesive and technically
adroit (listen to the superbly named oboist Wash McClain in his oboe
solo during the air Halcyon days).
But felicities abound. The naturalness of the diminuendos
in the chorus Around, around we pace, for example, or
the authentic sounding wind machine in the Dance of the Winds. The
wickedly tinkling bell that accompanies the off beats in the chorus
Sea-nymphs hourly may or may not be authentic but I think even
Purcell would have approved. Gillian Keith is trippingly elegant and
mocking in Dear Pretty Youth abjuring explicit sensuality, much
as Paul Grindlay prefers decorum to stentorian bluster in Arise,
arise. Michael Colvin’s runs in Your awful voice – no
question of that applying to him - are very well taken
indeed and Meredith Hall floats her line to superb effect in Halcyon
days. Brett Polegato makes a staunch showing in his aria as Neptune
See, see the heavens smile and in fact singers and band are in
accord in this recording, which does fitting justice to a problematic
but delightful score – whoever wrote it.
The pleasures are only compounded by the fillers, an
excellent If ever I more riches did desire, written to
a setting of Abraham Cowley’s poem, a mini cantata probably written
for court, and the Trumpet Sonata (Z 850) played by Norman Engel and
Stephanie Martin in fine style.
Altogether this is strongly persuasive and pleasurable
disc with a well-directed band and with young voices in one accord responding
to the texts with style and charm.