D Purcell” The Judgment of Paris

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Resonus
ALBUM TITLE: Daniel Purcell: The Judgment of Paris
WORKS: The Judgment of Paris
PERFORMER: Anna Dennis, Amy Freston, Ciara Hendrick, Samuel Boden, Ashley Riches; Rodolfus Choir; Spiritato/Julian Perkins


Poor old Daniel Purcell has long been in the shadow of his celebrated relative Henry, and his one-act pastoral opera The Judgment of Paris suffered the ignominy of coming third (out of four) in a music competition in 1701 – itself a fruitless attempt to foster the faltering tradition of English opera. The work might have been consigned to a footnote in music history books, were it not for this premiere recording which reveals a felicitous score: a patchwork of Italian opera, English masque and pastoral idioms. The vocal writing is by turns lyrical and declamatory, with – here and there – echoes of Henry Purcell, and some colourful brush-strokes in the instrumentation.

William Congreve’s libretto is based, aptly enough, on another competition: the mythological beauty contest between three goddesses judged by the shepherd-prince Paris. On parade here are Ciara Hendrick, a fresh-voiced and agile Juno, Amy Freston, a spirited Pallas, and Anna Dennis, suitably silky-toned as Venus. Despite their heady charms, Samuel Boden retains his cool as the eponymous judge – his tenor supple and lucid, his diction eloquent. There are a few rough edges in the instrumental ensemble and intonation, and occasionally the playing lumbers where it might be fleet, but all in all this is a genial performance that brings to light a surprisingly lovely work, and one that would make the perfect partner to Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas in the opera house.


Kate Bolton