Purcell: Theatre Music, Vol. 1: Amphitryon; Sir Barnaby Whigg; The Gordian Knot Unty’d; Circe

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COMPOSERS: Purcell
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Purcell
WORKS: Theatre Music, Vol. 1: Amphitryon; Sir Barnaby Whigg; The Gordian Knot Unty’d; Circe
PERFORMER: Aradia Ensemble/Kevin Mallon
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570149

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Two delightful additions here to the current catalogue. First is a sea-song for a couple of sailors in Thomas D’Urfey’s comedy Sir Barnaby Whigg, sung with rumbustious swagger by tenor and bass. Six pieces for inclusion in Charles Davenant’s Circe are a virtual operatic scenario, the enchantress weaving her magic to summon Pluto from the underworld. Kevin Mallon’s Aradia Ensemble is small – six violins, two violas and one-to-a-part otherwise. Their playing is sprightly, clean and fresh, despite an acoustic nearer bathroom than theatre. The singers’ words are excellent too, essential in the absence of texts in the liner notes. All the soloists here are drawn from the 12-strong choir, animated and stylish, with Andrea Jeffrey an exceptional soprano; her song ‘Celia, that I once was blest’ from Amphitryon is memorable. Other memorable highlights include the lively tambourine that accompanies a hornpipe, and the Chacone that ends The Gordian Knot Unty’d. Here Purcell’s ingenuity delights. This is an absolute ‘must’ for Purcell collectors, and as attractive a distraction for more general listening as it was to 17th-century theatre audiences. George Pratt