Purcell Songs and Dances
Tim Mead; Les Musiciens de Saint-Julien/François Lazarevitch (Alpha Classics)
Strike the Viol; Hornpipe; Pavan in G minor; Fairest Isle; Air, etc
Tim Mead (countertenor); Les Musiciens de Saint-Julien/François Lazarevitch
Alpha Classics ALPHA 419 66:10 mins
Tim Mead and François Lazarevitch are very experienced performers of Baroque music, though they came to the repertory via rather different routes. Mead began as a choral scholar in England and is known for his clear diction and vocal poise, while Lazarevitch studied in Paris and Brussels, and has an eclectic approach to instrumental performance, drawing on popular and ‘folk’ styles.
At one level the combination works well. Vocal pieces such as ‘May her blest example chase’ are given a halo of imaginative instrumental colour, and the freestanding instrumental dances and fantasias are vividly painted. In some works, however (eg the Pavane in G minor), the added embellishments overwhelm the delicate, chromatic false relations of Purcell’s original textures. Encrustation seems to be mistaken for adornment, even if we wish to take the music not as a text but a pretext for free improvisation. Tim Mead is more restrained in his use of ornamentation, though what he adds is tastefully done (as in ‘Strike the Viol’), and he captures well the popular tone of ‘’Twas Within a Furlong of Edinboro’ Town’ (incidentally, probably not by Purcell). He might have been a little freer with the beat in the recitative-like ‘’Tis Nature’s Voice’, and in ‘O Solitude’, although he negotiates the angular lines with poise, he does not quite match the personalised meaning given to it by Andreas Scholl on Decca. In short, this is an enjoyable disc but one that sometimes raises unsettling questions regarding interpretation.