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Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Purcell’s Revenge; Sweeter than Roses?
Moonlight on the Green by James Oswald / Scotch Tune (Purcell, Amphitryon, Z572) [2:14]
There’s not a swain on the plain (Rule a Wife and Have a Wife, Z 587), arr. Olivia Chaney [4:21]
Rondeau (Abdelazer, Z570) [1:48]
An Evening Hymn, Z193, arr. Ana Silvera [3:56]
Fantazia in four parts, No. 11 in G, Z742 [2:59]
A New Scotch Tune, Z655: Peggie I must love thee (Balcarres Lute Book) [2:12]
Sweeter than roses (Pausanias, Z585), arr. David McGuinness [3:25]
First Music: Hornpipe (The Fairy Queen, Z629) [1:01]
Fairest isle (King Arthur, Z628) [3:44]
Old Sir Simon the King (The Division Violin / Second Part of Musick’s Hand-maid) [3:54]
Jigg (Second Part of Musick’s Hand-maid) [0:57]
One charming night (The Fairy Queen) [3:42]
Close thine eyes, Z184, Jigg (Abdelazer) [3:06]
Music for a while (Oedipus, Z583) [3:42]
Cassiopeia - Olivia Chaney [4:11]
Halos - Ana Silvera [3:43]
The Plaint (The Fairy Queen) [6:01]
What shall I do to show how much I love her (Dioclesian, Z627) and variations by James Oswald, arr. David McGuinness [3:48]
Aminta one night had occasion to piss, Z430, arr. David McGuinness [2:22]
Hornpipe on a Ground (The Married Beau, Z603) [3:00]
Concerto Caledonia/David McGuinnessl Performers:
rec. 2013, Britten Studio, Snape, UK
Texts included
DELPHIAN DCD34161 [66:04]

This is a playful and occasionally exasperating disc from Concerto Caledonia under David McGuinness. Straight-ahead, no-nonsense Purcellians will be aghast at some of the things inflicted on their hero whilst the more broad-minded may well welcome the serious and indeed funnier moments - whilst also privately wondering why it all doesn’t work rather better than it does.

Given their folk basis the ensemble could hardly be expected to take an Academy of Ancient Music approach and the infusion of lyra d’amore, hurdy-gurdy, Nyckelharpa and harmonica will give you some idea of the sound-world explored by the group. There’s not a swain on the plain with its vocal folk ethos and ensuing expansive instrumental shows how the group wants to marry the Purcellian idiom to its own sonically inclusive one but it can be a dangerous business. An Evening Hymn is de-ground bassed, as it were, and turned, kicking and screaming, into a winsome ballad, with Ana Silvera’s vowels not sounding especially English. It strikes me, then, as strange that, having established their credentials here in a kind of folk-baroque concept album, they should then decide to invite a proper singer of such music, James Bowman, to join them in a couple of numbers. As we can hear in Sweeter than Roses his voice is now well, well past its best and his musicality, never to be doubted, is little compensation. Is the use of Bowman to offer ‘real’ Purcell or to acquire some kind of legitimacy for the project? I’m undecided.

Fairest Isle is folked, much as the Classics were Jazzed in the 1930s, or Loch Lomond swung but whilst the latter two worked, this doesn’t. It sounds limp. Still, if you’ve yet to encounter a harmonica over hurdy-gurdy then listen to the Jigg. One Charming Night however takes us to the verge of Rock chamber opera – electric guitar, piano, and then quite a melancholy folkloric dénouement with much rusticity in the vocalising.

I’ve enjoyed a couple of this ensemble’s discs before and I appreciate that as suppliers of so-called Nu-Folk (what’s wrong with ‘New Folk’?) they plough their own furrow. Some things are effective, especially that nexus between the more Arcadian aspects of Purcell’s writing and the rural-folk inspirations on which the ensemble draw. But too much of the singing also draws upon the clichés of the genre and I don’t necessarily mean, for instance, the elongated vowels that turn the word ‘safe’ into ‘sayyyyyfe’.

The documentation is excellent and there are some splendid photographs. Most of the performances are live but a couple come from the studio. Sample firrrrst.

Jonathan Woolf




 




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