Purcell: Ten Sonatas in Four Parts

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WORKS: Ten Sonatas in Four Parts
PERFORMER: Retrospect Trio


There’s something decidedly appropriate about Retrospect Trio choosing Purcell for its debut recording. During the build-up to Purcell’s tercentenary celebrations in 1997, the group’s previous incarnation, The King’s Consort, displayed tireless dedication to his works, expanding the catalogue.

Now reinvented as Retrospect Ensemble (with Matthew Halls still artistic director), its chamber offshoot rides to the rescue again with repertoire ripe for revisiting. The fine accounts by the Purcell Quartet and London Baroque already date back nearly 20 years.

Like the companion Sonatas for Three Parts, Purcell nails his four-part colours to an ‘imitation of the most fam’d Italian masters’ – ‘music’s best master’ he insisted while admitting that a little ‘French air was good for gayety and fashion’. For all the advertising claims though, the music grafts continental inclinations onto the sturdy rootstock of the English Fantazia to produce music rich in contrapuntal argument, ear-catching harmonies, melodic felicities and suave fluidity.

Retrospect captures it all with an inexhaustible spirit of delight in the Purcellian moment – from the harmonic adventures which bring Sonata No. 5 to a psychedelic close, to the vibrant thrusting joie de vivre of the ‘Golden Sonata’. Violinists Sophie Gent and Matthew Truscott take it in turns to occupy the lead violin chair; a potent demonstration of the generous reciprocity which informs the playing throughout.


Considered yet never corseted, Retrospect’s Purcell makes a release of the three-part sonatas a mouthwatering matter of urgency. Paul Riley