Purcell: Twelve Sonatas in Three Parts - BBC Music Magazine
01 December 2011BBC Music Magazine
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The Retrospect Trio made an auspicious CD debut (reviewed
July 2009) with a sophisticated and invigorating account of Purcell's Sonatas
in four parts - published posthumously under the watchful eye of his
widow. Now they complete the project
with the release of the 1683 three-part Sonatas. Dedicated to King Charles II, they are
prefaced by what amounts to a provocative manifesto championing the ‘most fam'd
Italian masters' at the expense of the ‘levity and balladry of our neighbours'. This French-bashing is, though, admittedly
tempered elsewhere by an acknowledgement that ‘more gayety and fashion' follows
a little cultivation of the ‘French air'.
What Purcell's forward didn't reference however was a third element: the
English fantasia tradition. This creates
a unique three-way discourse in a set of sonatas Purcellian to their
contrapuntally ingenious, harmonically idiosyncratic fingertips. Their distinctive suavity more than finds its
match in the Retrospect Trio who speak the language of Purcell as naturally as
if it was their mother tongue. There isn't
a nuance that escapes them - from the splendid military ‘snap, crackle and pop'
of Sonata No. 2's Presto to the
queasy harmonies in Sonata No. 3's second Adagio,
relished with ghoulish glee. The
conversational cut and thrust is always dapper and supremely cogent, the
textures elucidated with a springy clarity, and the transitions from section to
section are dispatched with instinctive fluency and decisiveness. It's superbly recorded as well.
Related LinksMatthew HallsRetrospect TrioTwelve Sonatas in Three Parts