PURCELL (1659-1695) Dido and Aeneas (1689)
Susan Graham (soprano) -
Ian Bostridge (tenor) – Aeneas
Camilla Tilling (soprano) - Belinda
Cécile de Boever (soprano) - Second Woman
Felicity Palmer (soprano) - Sorceress
David Daniels (counter-tenor) - Spirit
Paul Agnew (tenor) – Sailor
Le Concert d’Astrée/Emmanuelle Haïm
rec. Arsenal de Metz, March 2003 VIRGIN CLASSICS
comes Emmanuelle Haïm’s 2003 recording of Dido and Aeneas in
rapidly overhauled guise. This Virgin Classics re-release bears
a Gramophone Recommends rosette on the booklet and is
part of a relatively extensive reissue programme that sports
the same rubric.
in the series are relative disappointments – Anderszewski’s
much praised Diabelli variations, Kyung-Wha Chung’s lethargic
Beethoven and Bruch concertos with Tennstedt, Sarah Chang’s
torpid Dvořák with Colin Davis and Nigel Kennedy’s gruesome
Elgar with Rattle. But this Dido, fortunately, is not of their
ilk. This is a fine recording and offers real pleasure.
playing of Le Concert d’Astréeis both sensitive and
subtle. We can gauge its invention from the overture and in
the playing behind Dido’s first entry Ah! Belinda where
the instrumental immediacy projects real character and tension.
Haïm stresses the expressive depth of this scene, mining it
richly and – it seems to me – explicitly aligning it to Dido’s
farewell, thus creating the two powerful expressive columns
through which the rest of the opera operates as an arch. If
that’s the intention, if that’s where Haïm locates the core
expressive moments, then it works very successfully. With
drooping wings incidentally and revealingly is taken quite
briskly, unsentimentally and no undue lingering.
no danger is elegantly sprung – the
accompaniment includes a nicely audible baroque guitar – and
the chorus, European Voices, sounds eminently well drilled
but not at all manicured. The dynamic guitar figures strongly
in Act I’s If not for mine, the scene where Aeneas
and Dido are together alone. It’s a scene full of tactile
energy and dynamism – some may in fact find it too much so – but
it richly conveys the emotional urgency underling their meeting.
The guitar also dominates the Second Woman’s Act II Scene
II Of she visits with blunt, rhythmic attacks – almost
a “pop” sensibility at work here. The thunderclaps of the
opening of the second Act are also visceral and really rather
realistic though the Hammer Horror groans of the Furies dance
are a little immodestly done.
I’ve concentrated on the orchestral
and choral properties and so far said nothing about the solo
singing. Susan Graham is an expressive but not overly static
heroine. In her exchanges with Aeneas she proves quick, urgent,
compelling. In her opening and closing moments she retains regal
dignity; good diction and fine trills as well. Ian Bostridge
is better than I’d perhaps unfairly anticipated. Some native
tenors have adopted a bank managerish approach to the role but
Bostridge is commendably straight with what is, any case, a
difficult role to bring to life. Felicity Palmer is the Sorceress – powerful
and convincing – and David Daniels pops up as the Spirit. Paul
Agnew, another luxury in the cast, throws himself, Francis Drake-like,
into his role of the Sailor.
I’m not sure what’s happened
to my review copy. A huge chunk of the text is missing so if
this matters to you check before you buy. But a warm welcome
back to a first class recording, one that is more agile than
the more ponderous René Jacobs for instance, whilst not quite
exploring the ultimate in gravity of the old Anthony Lewis recording.
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