Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Edition Vol. 4 - Instrumental Music
Full track and performer details at end of review
rec. 1967-68 CD1 except Chacony (1970) and Sonata (1995): 1982 (CD3): 1995 (CDs 2, and 5); 1965 (No.4)
WARNER CLASSICS 2564691390 [5 CDs: 308:44]

Warner’s Purcell Edition is a multi-box, multi-disc, recycling of some well established figures in the discography. Harnoncourt, Leonhardt, Gardiner, Hogwood and Baumont’s are the names emblazoned on the box front. Of these Oliver Baumont, though a distinguished musician, is the least well known, but his disc of the suites and keyboard music is a fine one. In truth Gardiner’s contribution is misleadingly slim.

The first disc is an active retrieval of the recordings made by the Leonhardt-Consort under the Gustav of that ilk. There are suites, overtures, pavans, fantasias and sonatas. The most distinguished playing and interpretatively the most moving comes in things such as the gravity of the B flat major Pavan and the Sonata in A minor, where the playing has noble sustenance. This isn’t to imply that it falls below a standard elsewhere, merely to point out where it rises to its most eloquent peak. There are three songs, dispatched by the bass Max van Egmond. The Brüggen Consort plays the Fantasia a 4 No.7. Gardiner’s contribution is restricted to directing the EBS for trumpeter David Blackadder in the D major Sonata Z850.

Discs two and three are however the heart of the matter as regards instrumental music. The Twelve Sonatas of Three Parts are played by Beznosiuk, Podger, Coin and Hogwood, recordings made in 1995 and still very much a living part of the Purcell chamber discography of choice. The individual movements of the sonatas are not separately tracked but that’s of little account, so warm and zesty is the playing, so rhythmically vital and imaginative too. Let’s just cite the refinement of the Presto of the second sonata and of the phrasal breadth of the same work’s Adagio. The lightly etched dissonances of the D minor [No.3] or the noble tread of the Sonnata opening to No.6 are two more exemplars of the instrumental and expressive excellences achieved by this ensemble.

The Ten Sonatas in Four Parts were played by Catherine Mackintosh and Monica Huggett with, once again, Coin and Hogwood. The recording date back to 1982 and was an LP staple. The playing here is of robust sensitivity, and impressive, the two star fiddlers acquitting themselves with distinction. The Canzona of the B minor [No. 1] is a perfect example of the control and balance of the playing whilst the richly etched dynamism and rhythmic lift of the Vivace of No.7 attests to the drama of the performances. A similar sense of incision is not the preserve of the performances of the Viol Fantasias, which are heard in the famed performances set down in 1965 by Concentus musicus Wien directed by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. The intellectual and instrumental control is never in doubt, though clearly more recent recordings (Fretwork’s principally) have rendered these masterpieces with considerably more incision and rhythmic dynamism. Even given the changes in prevailing orthodoxies, there is something occasionally literal, even dogged, about the performances, fine though they are on their own terms.

The final disc belongs to the harpsichord suites and other keyboard works. Baumont is a strong guide to this repertoire though I recall Robert Woolley and much more recently Richard Egarr with particular admiration. Baumont can be more emphatic than Woolley but he is also rather more rhythmically charged, adding greatly to the vitality of his playing.

This box will clearly have elements that appeal more than others. In terms of the instrumental music London Baroque [HM 7901327] hold sway. For the sonatas in three parts and four parts, I would suggest the Purcell Quartet [Chandos CHAN 0572/73; 8763]. I mentioned Fretwork above for the Fantasias [Virgin 545062-2] and their disc is outstanding, though Hesperion XX is good too [Astrée 8536]. For just the harpsichord suites go for Sophie Yates [Chandos 0587] or maybe Kenneth Gilbert [HM 901496]; Woolley’s conspectus still engages me [Saga 9009 – 2 CDs].

Jonathan Woolf

Full track list:

Overture in D Minor Z771 [3:45]
Pavan in Bb Z750 [3:17]
Suite in G major Z770 [7:41]
Pavan in A minor Z749 [3:42]
Fantasia (Chaconne) Three parts on a Ground in D Z731 [4:41]
Overture in G Minor Z772 [3:37]
Pavan for Four Parts in G Minor Z752 [4:37]
Sonata in A Minor Z804 [6:06]
Fantasia a 4 No. 7 [3:37] ¹
Fly swift, ye hours Z369 ³
The father brave – from Who can from joy refrain? Z342 [1:31] ³
Return, revolting rebels – from Timon of Athens Z632 [1:23] ³
Chacony in G Minor Z730 [5:09]
Sonata for trumpet and strings Z850 [4:11] ²
Brüggen-Consort/Frans Brüggen ¹
David Blackadder (trumpet)/English Baroque Soloist/John Eliot Gardiner ²
Max von Egmond (bass) ³
Leonhardt-Consort/Gustav Leonhardt


Twelve Sonatas of Three Parts (1683) Z790-801 [71:46]
Pavlo Beznosiuk and Rachel Podger (violins): Christophe Coin (cello): Christopher Hogwood (chamber organ)


Ten Sonatas in Four Parts Z802-811 [62:07]
Catherine Mackintosh and Monica Huggett (violins): Christophe Coin (cello): Christopher Hogwood (chamber organ)


The Viol Fantasias
Three Fantasias for Three Voices Z732-734 [8:14]
Nine Fantasias for Four Voices Z735-743 [43:06]
Concentus musicus Wien/Nikolaus Harnoncourt


Harpsichord suites and other keyboard works
A New Ground ZT682 [2:18]
Suite No. 1 Z660 [2:57]
A New Scotch Tune Z655 [1:01]
A New Irish Tune Z646 [0:53]
Suite No. 2 Z661 [7:17]
Ground in Gamut Z645 [1:29]
Suite No. 3 Z662 [5:20]
Air Z641 [1:11]
Hornpipe in E minor Z685 [0:52]
Suite No. 4 Z663 [5:41]
Ground in C minor Z D221 [3:03]
Suite No. 5 Z666 [6:09]
March in C major Z647 [1:00]
Minuet in A minor Z649 [1:08]
Suite No. 6 Z667 [4:30]
Ground in D minor Z D222 [1:53]
Suite No. 7 Z668 [6:18]
Air in D minor Z 675 [1:33]
Round O Z684 [1:18]
Suite No. 8 Z669 [5:40]
Sefauchi’s Farewell Z656 [2:23]
Olivier Baumont (harpsichord)