Carolyn Sampson performs Purcell: Come all ye songsters

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LABELS: Wigmore Hall Live
WORKS: Come all ye songsters; The Fairy Queen – arias; A dance of fairies; Don Quixote – arias; Harpsichord Suite No. 5 in C; Music from the guitar book of Princess Ann; King Arthur – Fairest Isle; Abdelazer or The Moor’s Revenge – incidental music; The cares of lovers; What a sad fate is mine; Not all my torments can your pity move; Fly swift ye hours, etc; plus works by Draghi, Corbetta & C Simpson
PERFORMER: Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Elizabeth Kenny (lute), Jonathan Manson (bass viol), Laurence Cummings (harpsichord)


Writing in the year of the French Revolution, Charles Burney feared for the continuing popularity of the composer he hailed as heir to Orpheus and Amphion. He needn’t have feared: Purcell’s stock has probably never stood higher since the 1690s when London flocked to a string of theatrical hits, and the future Queen Anne made her way by barge to a performance of The Fairy Queen. Presumably included in the royal party was the Princess’s Maid of Honour, Lady Annabella Howard, and it seems likely that it was for her (a gifted pupil) that Purcell compiled what is now known as the ‘Gresham Manuscript’ – a compendium supplying much of the vocal material in this skilfully-woven programme that also pays appropriate court to ‘Princes Ans Lutebook’. 

Instrumental leavening includes Laurence Cummings’s sensitively-turned account of Purcell’s C major Harpsichord Suite, Jonathan Manson’s plaintive viol negotiating a languid ‘Ground’ by Draghi, and Elizabeth Kenny’s stately Passacaille from Corbetta’s La Guitarre Royalle. But of course it’s soprano Carolyn Sampson’s peerless Purcell that steals the show – whether inhabiting tortured madness, or the airborne, caressing grace of an opening set from The Fairy Queen. By way of final encore, ‘Fairest Isle’ bids farewell with a guileless, eloquent, spellbinding simplicity.


Paul Riley