Arise, My Muse

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Blow and Croft,Clarke,Gabrieli,Purcell
LABELS: Wigmore Hall Live
ALBUM TITLE: Arise, My Muse
WORKS: Works by Purcell, Gabrieli, Clarke, Blow and Croft
PERFORMER: Iestyn Davies (countertenor), Richard Egarr (harpsichord), Pamela Thorby, Tabea Debus (recorder), Bojan Cicic, Stephen Pedder (violin), Julia Kuhn (violin, viola), Mark Levy (viola da gamba), William Carter (theorbo, baroque guitar)


This live recital takes its starting point the works of Henry Purcell. If only it included the song that would best encapsulate it: after an hour in Iestyn Davies’s genial company, ‘music for a while’, does indeed all our ‘cares beguile!’ Or at least most of them. Davies plunders Purcell’s rich stock of celebratory Odes to which he adds songs and theatre music by contemporaries Jeremiah Clarke and William Croft, as well as a suite from Venus and Adonis by their teacher John Blow. The Blow is dispatched with shapely relish by an instrumental team directed from the harpsichord by the perennially free-spirited Richard Egarr.

In the title track Davies’s ‘muse’ arises a touch mutedly. True, too, of ‘Tis Nature’s Voice, for all that he negotiates the florid passage work with such supple ease. But the wonderful sly spontaneity of Strike the Viol, which culminates in an alluring Restoration jam session, the languorous sensuality of Here the Deities approve, and a gently insouciant Crown the Altar – not so much sung as caressed – are irresistible. The instrumentalists don’t quite nail the unstoppable life force that courses through the gloriously precocious Three Parts on a Ground, but all in all, this is an enthralling stroll through Restoration London at its musically most sophisticated.


Paul Riley