Purcell: Twelve Sonatas in Three Parts - BBC 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.