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Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Sonnatas of Three Parts (1683)
Sonnata No. 1 in G minor Z.790 [5:16]
Pavan in G major for Three Violins and Bass Z.572 [3:52]
Sonnata No. 2 in B flat major Z.791 [5:22]
Pavan in B flat major Two Violins and Bass Z.750 [3:36]
Sonnata No. 3 in D minor Z.792 [5:22]
Sonnata No. 4 in F major Z.793 [4:53]
Pavan in A minor for Two Violins and Bass Z.749 [3:10]
Sonnata No. 5 in A minor Z794 [5:29]
Sonnata No. 6 in C major Z795 [6:07]
Sonnata No. 7 in E minor Z796 [6:57]
Risa Browder (violin); Purcell Quartet
rec. St Barnabas’ Church, London, 16-18 November 1987. DDD.
CHANDOS CHAN8591 [50:55]
 
Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Sonnatas of Three & Four Parts (1697)
Sonnata No. 8 in G major Z.797 [4:48]
Sonnata No. 1 in B minor Z.802 [5:29]
Three Parts upon a Ground in D major Z.731 [4:31]
Sonnata No.10 in D major Z.801 [4:47]
Sonnata No.11 in F minor Z.800 [4:55]
Sonnata No.12 in A major Z.799 [4:15]
Pavan in A major for Two Violins and Bass Z.748 [3:39]
Sonnata No.13 in C minor Z.798 [6:30]
Sonnata No.2 in E flat major Z.803 [6:10]
Pavan for Two Violins and Bass Z.751 [3:02]
Chacony in g for Two Violins Z.730
Risa Browder (violin); Purcell Quartet
rec. St Barnabas’ Church, London, 19-21 January 1988. DDD.
CHANDOS CHAN8663 [53:20]
 
Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Ten Sonnatas of Four Parts
Sonnata No. 9 in F major Z.810 ‘Called for its excellence the Golden Sonata’ [6:52]
Sonnata No. 4 in D minor Z.805 [6:28]
Voluntary for Organ in G major Z.720 [3:22]
Sonnata No. 8 in G minor Z.809 [6:24]
Variant to two movements of Sonata No. 8 [2:50]
Sonnata No. 7 in C major Z.808 [6:17]
Sonnata No. 3 in A minor Z.804 [6:45]
Voluntary for Organ in D minor Z.718 [3:06]
Sonnata No.10 in D major Z.811 [5:16]
Prelude for Solo Violin in G minor ZN.733 [0:50]
Sonnata No. 5 in G minor Z.806 [7:07]
Sonnata No. 6 in G minor Z.807 [6:41]
Catherine Mackintosh (violin); Purcell Quartet
rec. St Bartholemew’s Church, Orford, Suffolk, 2-3 July 1988. DDD.
CHANDOS CHAN8763 [62:53]
Experience Classicsonline

Sadly, both these couplings of the Purcell Sonnatas of Three and Four Parts are deleted in CD format, though one online dealer seems still to have copies of CHAN8763. As with Chandos’s recording of Rubbra’s Medieval Lyrics, etc., which I recently reviewed (CHAN9847 – see review), I might be amazed that these fine recordings have not sold sufficiently well to remain in the catalogue, but I am happy that, in accord with the Chandos policy of keeping deleted recordings available as downloads, they remain available in these two different couplings.
 
The Sonatas are available on three rather short CDs, with miscellaneous items, or with the Pavans alone on two well-filled CDs, as shown below. The latter is obviously the more attractive prospect for those who don’t mind losing some of the miscellaneous items – you still get all the Sonatas, together with some other pieces, including the Chacony in g, famous from Britten’s arrangement, in that format. I must say, however, that the Organ Voluntaries – available only in the 3-disc format – are attractive pieces.
 
Both couplings are available as mp3s for £6 per disc and in lossless format (wma, wav or aiff) for £10. I applaud Chandos’s commitment and very much hope that this review will encourage at least some readers to purchase one or other of these downloads. I downloaded most of the tracks in mp3 format and, while these are not among Chandos’s newer 320kbps versions, I found the sound (at 192kbps according to Windows Explorer) more than adequate. I downloaded some of the tracks as wma lossless files, then deliberately forgot which tracks were which: I honestly cannot say that I was sure which was which when listening.
 
Despite the antiquated spelling – I do hope that it isn’t Chandos’s use of this which has caused the apparent lack of sales – this is very attractive music. You wouldn’t want to listen to all three volumes one after the other, but I am surprised that the music is not better known and not more often performed. I suppose the problem lies in the excellence of Purcell’s vocal music – and I certainly wouldn’t recommend these Sonatas as the first Purcell to try. Dido and Æneas must surely take pride of place, followed by the Birthday Odes, the Funeral Music for Queen Anne and some of the church music. There are at least four excellent versions of Dido – I’d find it hard to choose from those by Lewis, Christie, Bolton and Hickox – but only really two choices for the other vocal works: a mid-price 2-CD selection from Christ Church Choir under Simon Preston or the complete Odes, Anthems and Services on Hyperion from The King’s Consort (available singly or en bloc.)
 
Despite the pre-eminence of these vocal compositions – and The Fairy Queen and King Arthur are also well worth hearing – the Sonatas alone would surely have made a significant reputation for the multi-talented but short-lived Purcell. As with Mozart and Schubert, one marvels that so much could have been achieved in such a short span. In his own lifetime Purcell’s music was compared with that of Corelli and Bassani; since neither of these was renowned for vocal composition, the comparison applies only to his instrumental works. Indeed, the 1683 publication specifically claims that the music was written after the style of “the most fam’d Italian masters”: Cazzati and Calista rather than Corelli, though Corelli’s music was probably readily available in London. That 1683 edition contained the first twelve trio sonatas, an expensive volume handsomely produced. The remaining ten sonatas were published by Purcell’s widow in 1697 in a much cheaper and very slipshod form.
 
If Purcell did know Corelli’s first collection of 1681, he was no slavish imitator. The freezing scene in King Arthur sounds for all the world like Vivaldi’s Winter concerto before Vivaldi composed The Four Seasons. His music owes as much to the earlier generation of English composers as to his Italian contemporaries. He admired Orlando Gibbons’s music sufficiently to transcribe some of it and his Viol Fantazias hark back to an earlier age when that family of instruments was in vogue. If I say that even Purcell’s most cheerful music is tinged with melancholy, I don’t mean that it is morbid – rather, it is the sweet melancholy of his Elizabethan and Jacobean predecessors.
 
If you want to sample the quality of the music, try the first track of CHAN8763 (it’s track 9 of CD2 of the 2-disc set), singled out in Purcell’s own lifetime as The Golden Sonata, or the Chacony in g which ends both CHAN8663 and the second CD of the 2-disc set. The brief extracts available on the Chandos website will give you some idea of the excellence of both the music and the performance. I guarantee that, unless you are totally unsympathetic to this style of music, you will be so impressed that you will want to download one version or other. I cannot imagine this music being better performed. In any case, Christopher Hogwood’s accounts on Oiseau-Lyre have been deleted, though the highly-regarded London Baroque recording on Harmonia Mundi remains available as a 2-for-1 set, HMX290 1483.
 
The 2-CD set doesn’t come with notes, but the three booklets from the separate issues may be downloaded as Adobe .pdf documents and printed out by all-comers. They are certainly well worth having.
 
I have already indicated that the recording is more than acceptable in either format. In view of the price differential – greater than usual with Chandos downloads – between mp3 and lossless versions, you may well go for the former: I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
 
One word of warning about all Chandos downloads. Half way through downloading the tracks, the check mark against ‘assign automatic file name’ on my download manager got unchecked, probably as a result of my own carelessness. An appeal for help to Chandos met with an immediate response, though, as I had caused the problem, they were unable to explain why the tracks were downloading without titles and with a weird extension which Windows did not recognise. Downloads from other websites without the filename box checked did not cause the same problem. If you encounter the same problem, make sure the relevant box is checked or, if this does not solve the problem, type in your own filename, making sure that it has the .wma extension (or .wav, etc., whichever format you choose).
 
Full marks to Chandos, however, for their prompt reply to this and other queries, when another major supplier has resolutely ignored my request to explain why the advertised filler to their recording of the Brandenburg Concertos is not what it claims to be but a repeat of Concerto No.2.
 
Brian Wilson


"2CD" compilation

Availability: Download Classicsonline
CD1 : Sonnatas of 3 Parts; 3-Part Pavans
Sonnata No. 1 in G minor Z790 [5:16]
Pavan in G minor - for Two Violins and Bass Z751 [3:02]
Sonnata No. 2 in B flat major Z791 [5:23]
Pavan in B flat major - for Two Violins and Bass Z750 [3:37]
Sonnata No. 3 in D minor Z792 [5:21]
Sonnata No. 4 in F major Z793 [4:52]
Sonnata No. 5 in A minor Z794 [5:29]
Pavan in A minor - for Two Violins and Brass Z749 [3:10]
Sonnata No. 6 in C major Z795 [6:07]
Sonnata No. 7 in E minor Z796 [6:55]
Sonnata No. 8 in G major Z797 [4:48]
Sonnata No. 9 in C minor Z798 [6:31]
Sonnata No. 10 in A major Z799 [4:15]
Pavan in A major - for Two Violins and Bass Z748 [3:40]
Sonnata No. 11 in F minor Z800 [4:56]
Sonnata No. 12 in D major Z801 [4:54]
CD2: Ten Sonnatas of 4-Parts
Pavan for Three Violins and Bass in G minor Z752 [3:54]
Sonnata No. 1 in B minor Z802 [5:29]
Sonnata No. 2 in E flat major Z803 [6:11]
Sonnata No. 3 in A minor Z804 [6:46]
Sonnata No. 4 in D minor Z805 [6:28]
Sonnata No. 5 in G minor Z806 [7:07]
Sonnata No. 6 in G minor Z807 (Chaconne) [6:35]
Sonnata No. 7 in C major Z808 [6:17]
Sonnata No. 8 in G minor Z809 [6:24]
Sonnata No. 9 in F major - ‘Called for its excellence the Golden Sonata’ Z810 [6:48]
Sonnata No. 10 in D major Z811 [5:16]
Three Parts upon a Ground in D major Z731 [4:32]
Chacony in g minor - for Two Violins, Viola and Bass Z730 [4:21]
Risa Browder (violin); Purcell Quartet
rec. (CD1) St Barnabas’ Church, London, November 1987, January 1988. DDD
rec. (CD2) St Bartholemew’s Church, Orford, Suffolk, 2-3 July 1988. DDD
CHANDOS DOWNLOAD CHAN0572-3 [79:37+77:29]

 

 


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