Purcell: Harpsichord Suites (specify?)

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COMPOSERS: Purcell
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: Harpsichord Suites (specify?)
PERFORMER: Olivier Baumont (harpsichord, virginals)
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-10695-2 DDD
For all the celebrations to mark the tercentenary of Purcell’s death last year, his keyboard music has remained very much in the shadow of his works for the theatre and Church; yet the simplicity and grace of these more intimate pieces make them immediately appealing. Several of them are, in fact, transcriptions of earlier vocal works, and therein lies the key to their interpretation. Of the two performers, Olivier Baumont is the more flamboyant, invariably choosing faster tempi than Sophie Yates, and playing with fluidity, panache and humour. But Yates’s guileless approach really captures the music’s ingenuousness, even if she occasionally sounds a little too strait-laced.

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Her harpsichord (a copy by Andrew Garlich of an instrument made in 1681 by Jean-Antoine Vaudry, now in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum) could hardly be better suited to the music, with its sweet, warm sound, beautifully reproduced by the Chandos engineers, who don’t make the all too frequent mistake of recording the instrument too close. Baumont’s harpsichord has a sharper tang, and he also uses a virginals for the Grounds and individual lessons. Both artists have much to offer, and the final choice will depend on whether you prefer your Purcell plain (Yates) or piquant (Baumont). Kate Bolton