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Henry PURCELL (1659 – 1695)
One Charming Night
David Hansen (countertenor)
Oslo Circles
rec. 2018, Norwegian Opera & Ballet, Oslo
Sung texts enclosed

“Oslo Circles was founded in Oslo in 2015 and consists of some of the most established musicians in Scandinavia, within the world of baroque music”. On this disc they are joined by Australian countertenor David Hansen, who is a close collaborator with Oslo Circles. There are nine members listed: Astrid Kirschner and Řivind Nussle baroque violins, Mari Giske baroque viola, Mime Brinkmann baroque cello, Caroline Eidsten Dahl and Ingeborg Christophersen recorders, Jonas Bonde percussion, Karl Nyhlin archlute and baroque guitar, Mariangiola Martello, harpsichord. In the Nordic countries we have a long tradition of performing baroque music on period instruments and this relative newcomer is a valuable addition. The members in Oslo Circles already play regularly in already existing ensembles, even non-Nordic. And it is obvious from the very beginning that they are players of the highest order. The very beginning is the celebrated Rondeau from Abdelazer, or The Moor’s Revenge as it is also known as. The Rondeau was famously used by Benjamin Britten as the theme for The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra and has also appeared in other circumstances. Springy and rhythmically taut it gives an impetus to the whole programme, and the following four short movements are just as full of life with a light and airy Air, a mildly rocking Minuet, a noble Hornpipe and an intense Jig. It is all over in less than seven minutes but the temperature is already high.

The well-known Music for a while from Oedipus, King of Thebes is beautifully sung with a great deal of attractive vibrato. David Hansen has a clear voice and good enunciation, which he also shows to advantage in One charming night, which is the first of the excerpts from The Fairy Queen, Purcell’s adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream¸ even though he never set Shakespeare’s words. Dance for the fairies is springy with piccolo recorder in the lead and the following dances are also excellently played with the energetically rhythmic Chaconne as the crowning glory. It is always a pleasure to return to The Fairy Queen, one of Purcell’s most inspired scores. From King Arthur comes another famous number, the Frost Scene, where the Cold Genius, newly awakened from his sleep, shivers What power art thou? – a masterly illustration of a freezing character. It is expertly sung by David Hansen. For Sweeter than roses from Pausanias he has both power and intensity and his coloratura is also in good shape. The Birthday Ode for Queen Mary is represented by a swinging instrumental piece, Strike the viol, and then follows the often heard If music be the food of love, a setting of Henry Hevingham’s poem.

From Purcell’s last year comes the Masque of Cupid and Bacchus, written for a revival of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens. The two songs recorded here offer dramatic singing of the highest order. Most of the music for The Indian Queen Purcell managed to complete before he passed away in November 1695, including the dances recorded here. In particular the Hornpipes are truly swingy. The most famous piece of all is Dido’s lament from Dido and Aeneas. Plaintive tone, beautifully vocalised and employing an un-intrusive vibrato for extra strong feelings, characterises David Hansen’s reading, and with no chorus available the strings play a postlude full of grief.

Two pieces from King Arthur form the finale of this highly attractive programme. The Chaconne in 3/4-time is played as though it was a hambo, a typical Swedish rural dance from around the turn of the century 1900. Charming and becoming – though perhaps inauthentic … Fairest isle sung with feeling stays in one’s memory long after the programme is over.

Excellent playing and singing, an interesting programme with several goodies, recording from the top drawer and illuminating liner notes by Bryan White cooperate to make this a highly recommendable issue. More of this kind, please, SIMAX!

Göran Forsling

Abdelazer, Z 570:
1. Rondeau [1:41]
2. Air [1:15]
3. Minuet [0:58]
4. Hornpipe [0:40]
5. Jig [0:30]
Oedipus, King of Thebes, Z 583/2:
6. Music for a while [3:35]
The Fairy Queen, Z 629:
7. One Charming Night [2:53]
8. Dance for the fairies [1:00]
9. Hornpipe [0:56]
10. Rondeau [1:37]
11. Jigg [0:59]
12. Song tune [2:00]
13. Chaconne: Dance of the Chinese man and woman [3:05]
King Arthur, or The British Worthy, Z 628:
14. What power art thou? [4:39]
Pausanias, the Betrayer of his Country, Z 585/1:
15. Sweeter than roses [3:41]
Come, ye sons of art, away (Birthday Ode for Queen Mary), Z 323/5:
16. Strike the viol [4:13]
17. If music be the food of love, Z 379 [2:10]
Timon of Athens, Z 632:
18. Love in their little veins inspires [1:43]
19. Come all, come all to me [1:09]
The Indian Queen, Z 630:
20. Aire I & II [2:25]
21. Hornpipe I & II [2:44]
Dido and Aeneas, Z 626:
22. When I am laid in earth [5:10]
King Arthur, or The British Worthy, Z 628:
23. Chaconne [3:25]
24. Fairest Isle [5:14]

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