Purcell: Ten Sonatas in Four Parts -

Here is a very pleasant 70-plus minutes of listening, not only for Purcell fans but for anyone who enjoys the well-matched timbres, agreeable ambience, and eminently stylish playing of real baroque violins, bass viol, and harpsichord (or organ) performed in an ideally, intimately resonant setting. These 10 sonatas, published posthumously in 1697, are the second set of a total of 22 such works (the first 12 appeared in 1683), and they contain all of the hallmarks of Purcell's writing that are so immediately ingratiating to the ear and appealing to the emotions. These include tension-building dissonances and chromatic ascending/descending harmonies (the final Adagio of Sonata V; the opening of Sonata VIII); lovely, play-them-again heart-rending melodies (opening movement of Sonata II); lively rhythms (Canzona of Sonata VII); and the always-clever counterpoint combined with catchy tunes.

The performers here--Sophie Gent and Matthew Truscott (violin), Jonathan Manson (bass viol), Matthew Halls (harpsichord & organ)--are first-rate, expertly articulating both the ebullient counterpoint and weightier slow-movement harmonies with scintillating clarity and stylish regard for sometimes abrupt shifts of mood and color from movement to movement--the transitions through the five short movements of the F major Sonata IX are a good example. Needless to say, the sound, recorded in a Berkshire, UK church, is absolutely spot-on. Outstanding!
07 July 2009