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Purcell: Ten Sonatas in Four Parts - Sunday Times


31 May 2009
Sunday Times
Hugh Canning
5 Stars

Retrospect is a newly formed period-instrument ensemble comprising former members of the King's Consort under their erstwhile acting director, Matthew Halls. With Sophie Gent and Matthew Truscott (alternating as first violin in five sonatas each) and the bass violist Jonathan Manson, Halls shows his prowess, on both harpsichord and organ, as a chamber musician. Most of Purcell's 10 Sonatas are latish works, posthumously published by his widow in 1697, but some may even predate a collection he released in 1683. Whatever their date, they are magnificent works, offering a fusion of Italian sonata, French suite and English viol consort music styles. Only No 1 in B minor emulates the slow-fast-slow-fast-slow movement structure of the typical Italian sonata da chiesa, while No 6 is an extended Adagio in G minor. Only the "Golden Sonata", No 9 in F major, is widely known, but the entire set counts as one of the pinnacles of baroque chamber music - adagios and largos are tinged with a uniquely Purcellian melancholy, while the many vivace numbers show the composer revelling in the spirit of baroque dance. The playing is immaculate - expressive and alert to all the nuance and variety of this superb music. An absolute winner for the Purcell year.
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Henry Purcell: Ten Sonatas in Four PartsHenry Purcell: Ten Sonatas in Four Parts