ALBUM TITLE: Victorious Love
WORKS: Songs including The Plaint, The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation, Fairest Isle, O Solitude, From Silent Shades etc
PERFORMER: Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Sarah Sexton, Andrea Morris (violin), Jane Rogers (viola), Laurence Cummings (harpsichord, spinet), Elizabeth Kenny (archlute, theorbo), Anne-Marie Lasla (bass viol)
CATALOGUE NO: SACD-1536
It’s always good to hear period-instrument performance finally relaxing a little, allowing itself to wander imaginatively ever further from the straight and narrow pathways of dogmatic scholarship which it diligently trod for a decade or two. This Purcell compilation prides itself on not only flexibility of vocal interpretation and scoring, but on its aim of emulating the ‘free and easy programming’ of Purcell’s own day.
So, we have random music-theatre extracts, pieces of incidental music, leaves from the Gentleman’s Journal of 1692, and from Harmonia Sacra. Carolyn Sampson’s luminescent soprano, with its easeful enunciation, seemingly instinctive ornamentation, and total lack of self-consciousness captures the bittersweet ‘affects’ of ‘Sweeter than Roses’, relishes the shifting tones of voice in the long nocturnal, ‘From silent shades’, and glows against a single theorbo accompaniment in the great ‘Evening Hymn’. The instrumental palette, though limited, is exquisitely tuned to Sampson’s voice and to the character of each piece. My own tiny reservation would be that one does begin to crave a similarly variegated palette of voices in this repertoire. But the album is obviously as much a portrait of Sampson as of Purcell; and given the high quality of the production all round, it would be churlish to complain.