Purcell: Twelve Sonatas in Three Parts - Early Music Review

These twelve sonatas were among the set works I had to study in my first year at St Andrews.  Although I had played a reconstructed "violin sonata in G minor" at school, I found the dense counterpoint all a little bamboozling, and it was only after looking at what had gone before (not only music by the "fam'd Italian masters" so often quoted in this context, but Purcell's native predecessors) that I began to make any sense of it.  I do not recollect which recordings we were advised to listen to, and I certainly recall no attempt actually to play the things.  On the few occasions when I have played them, there has always been some unease, especially when playing from facsimile, because Purcell's imitative points so often strike us as harmonically daring and have an unexpectedness about them.  All this is by way of a preamble to what I can only describe as the best recording of these works I have ever heard; four musicians so at the top of their game that they have the luxury of being able to play with the music.  Things that have previously sounded slightly awkward now make perfect sense - thirty years on from St Andrews, I now find that I'm listening to the music, rather than hearing the structure, and what marvellous music it is!  I have a feeling this recording might bring Linn another award to put on their mantelpiece.  It certainly ought to.

04 October 2011