COMPOSERS: Henry Purcell
ALBUM TITLE: Purcell 12 Sonatas of Three Parts
WORKS: 12 Sonatas of Three Parts
PERFORMER: The King’s Consort
CATALOGUE NO: Vivat 110
The 12 Sonatas of Three Parts, which the young Henry Purcell saw through the press himself in 1683, were dedicated to King Charles II, and described as ‘a just imitation of the most fam’d Italian masters’. Charles had made the teenage Purcell his composer-in-ordinary for the violins six years previously, but there was nothing ‘ordinary’ about this composer, and the sonatas could be by none other.
The King’s Consort, whose Purcellian pedigree has been honed over a long and distinguished discography, presents informed yet instinctive performances. Purcell’s expressive points are made without exaggeration, and the players steer a course through the numerous tempo changes with effortless fluidity. The opening of the F major Sonata, for example, has a glorious sweep discharged in a Canzona all a-quiver as it recasts the material in a new light. And the Consort relishes Purcell’s ubiquitous close-knit voice leading that promises learned discourse one moment, playful banter the next. Occasionally a touch of understatement sets the emotional thermostat unnecessarily low, but this is glorious music, gloriously played.