Bach, Purcell

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bach,Purcell
LABELS: Nonesuch
WORKS: Mein Herze schwimmt in Blut, BWV 199
PERFORMER: Dawn Upshaw (soprano); ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: 7559-79605-2
The principal work in Dawn Upshaw’s latest release is Bach’s Weimar cantata Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut, which is framed by groups of Purcell’s songs, sacred and secular. These include some favourites, among them ‘Music for a While’, one of the three settings of ‘If Music be the Food of Love’, ‘An Evening Hymn’ and ‘The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation’. Upshaw’s voice is as fresh and pleasing as ever, yet the Purcell pieces do not always succeed as well as they might; for though her intonation is excellent, her vibrato controlled and her diction pretty clear, she has developed a tendency to sentimentalise the music by scooping up to notes and swooping down upon them. Thus it is the slower pieces which suffer more than the faster ones. Upshaw brings greater discipline to the Bach cantata though an underlying sentimentality is again too often present. Perhaps I need to underline the fact that the work is an early masterpiece (1714), since the accompanying note remarks upon the composer’s early work as seeming ‘ungainly and disproportioned (weighted down, it turns out, by the depth and comprehensiveness of his musical ambition)’. Wow! But, in spite of a few reservations this is a warmly expressive, often very beautiful performance, in which the instrumental playing is eloquently phrased and admirably sensitive to singer and text throughout. Nicholas Anderson