LABELS: Virgin Veritas
WORKS: An Ode on the Death of Mr Henry Purcell
PERFORMER: Gérard Lesne, Steve Dugardin (alto); La Canzona
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45342 2
‘Nor let my homely death embroider’d be/With scutcheon or with elegy.’ There’s a certain irony in Purcell having set these lines (from ‘Here let my life’), since his own death in 1695 while homely – it’s said he died from a cold caught when his wife locked him out of the house after he came home drunk – was certainly ‘embroider’d… with elegy’. An Ode on the Death of Mr Henry Purcell was the result of a collaboration between two of his closest associates, his ex-teacher and fellow court musician John Blow and the poet and playwright John Dryden. Elaborate and heartfelt, it stands among Blow’s greatest works, the two alto voices singing out, together and apart, in eloquent praise of Purcell’s genius. Gérard Lesne and Steve Dugardin deliver it with a plangent edge that is affecting at first, though overall I prefer the gentler, more reflective account by James Bowman and Michael Chance on Hyperion.
The remainder of the CD alternates instrumental pieces by Blow with a quartet of Purcell songs. Highlights are a plaintive ‘Here let my life’, the sensuous ‘In vain the am’rous flute’ and some delightful Grounds, two adapted for recorder(s), all played with elegant finesse by La Canzona. Graham Lock