Purcell, Mico, Jenkins

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COMPOSERS: Jenkins,Mico,Purcell
LABELS: Channel
WORKS: Fantazia: arrangements of chamber works
PERFORMER: Amsterdam Loeki Stardust Quartet
To some readers, performances of Purcell’s viol fantasias by an ensemble of recorders is analogous to a Bach or Handel concerto performed by a group of guitarists. What is certain, though, is that, as Charles Burney once remarked of CPE Bach’s music, ‘a little habit is required for the enjoyment of it’. It is a critic’s job to approach his or her task with an open mind but, having done so, albeit with apprehension, I felt little other than disappointment by the monotony of sound and the blandness of texture. The formal severity and seriousness of character of these extraordinarily satisfying pieces belie Purcell’s youth, for he was only 21 years old when he wrote them. The Amsterdam Loeki Stardust Quartet plays nine of the ten Fantasias for four-part texture, and it plays them very well indeed. But the expressive nuances inherent in viol technique are severely restricted when translating the music to recorders. Listen to performances by Nikolaus Harnoncourt (Archiv) or Laurence Dreyfus (Simax) and you will not want to turn back. Perhaps it seemed less of a solecism in the case of the five pavans by Jenkins, and others by Richard Mico, but, in the end, indeed well before it, I found my attention wandering, and my longing for a consort of viols intensifying. In summary, a strange programme, beautifully played but ultimately dispiriting. Nicholas Anderson