London circa 1700 – Purcell and His Generation

La Rèveuse (Mirare)

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London (Circa 1700) – Purcell and His Generation
Works by D & H Purcell, Blow, Croft, Draghi & Finger
La Rèveuse
Mirare MIR 368   70:02 mins

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Here is the first volume in what is to be a survey of chamber music in London during the late 17th and early to mid-18th centuries. Italian and, to a more limited extent French styles played vital roles in shaping English music at this time as the attractively varied programme of La Rêveuse reveals. Purcell crowns all with a sonata from each of his two collections of three parts and four parts. These are splendid pieces in which the idioms of Italy and France can be heard respectively.

As for the remainder of the programme, readers will discover much that is probably unfamiliar to them but which will please the senses. Prominent among the composers is Gottfried Finger. He was one of the greatest viola da gamba players of his time and, though central European by birth, became a member of James II’s Catholic Chapel Royal in 1687. One of his six viola da gamba sonatas features here, as well as a Ground for recorder with its melodic variations, and a recorder Suite in D minor with a catchy ‘Jigg’. Both of the last-mentioned works belong to Finger’s collection of English Airs. Trio sonatas by Giovanni Battista Draghi, an Italian harpsichordist who was recruited for the Italian opera performances at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, and Purcell’s younger brother Daniel further demonstrate the high quality of post-Restoration London music. A Ground for two recorders by John Blow and a Sonata for recorders and violins by William Croft complete an appealing and somewhat undervalued picture of London musical life. La Rêveuse shine light in some dusty corners and deserve credit for its stylish performances.

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Nicholas Anderson