Purcell: Harpsichord Suites

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WORKS: Harpsichord Suites
PERFORMER: Martin Souter (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: CD004 DDD (distr. Priory)
Purcell’s keyboard works may occupy a relatively minor niche in his glorious oeuvre, but they are still touched by genius. These harpsichord pieces are models of charm and sophistication, their melodic invention a constant source of delight. Many of Purcell’s harpsichord compositions first appeared in The Choice Collection of Lessons for Harpsichord or Spinnet, which was published in 1696, just one year after his death. This CD comprises all of The Choice Collection – eight suites plus six transcriptions of brief orchestral works – with four extra pieces from various manuscript sources. The suites are very influenced by the elegant French style that was fashionable in Restoration London, with elaborate ornamentation, especially in the delicate Almands, rubbing shoulders with the bolder lines of Purcell’s Preludes, Hornpipes and Minuets, which share the more lively expressiveness of his theatre music.


Martin Souter plays impeccably on a 1700 Tisseran harpsichord from the Bate Collection. Reputed to be the oldest surviving two-manual instrument in the country, the Tisseran’s clear, chiming purity of tone perfectly complements the music’s gracefulness. Souter judges the tempi to a T: flourishes are never blurred, dance movements have a lilting flow. An exemplary release. Graham Lock