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Purcell: Dido and Aeneas

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
Dido Lewis Reissue

Purcell
Dido and Aeneas
Janet Baker, Patricia Clark, Raimund Herincx, Monica Sinclair; St Anthony Singers, ECO/Anthony Lewis
Decca Legends 466 387-2 ADD Reissue (1961)

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Memory can play cruel tricks when it comes to reassessing recordings which have commanded affection in years gone by, and particularly where earlier repertoire, whose traditions of performance have changed fast, is concerned. But listening to Janet Baker as Dido in her celebrated recording made at the dawn of her career, in 1962, still leaves one breathless with admiration and moved to the core by her combination of glorious sound and intensity of dramatic spirit, even though the English Chamber Orchestra under Anthony Lewis phrases more smoothly than even a non-period-instrument band would these days, and imparts a good deal more vibrato, too. Baker’s colleagues are equally good: Monica Sinclair’s Sorceress rasps as villainously as ever, while Raimund Herincx as Aeneas and Patricia Clark as Belinda elegantly frame the picture. Decca’s technical team have made the recording sound far more vivid than on my old L’Oiseau-Lyre LP. It’s difficult to compare with the many excellent modern recordings, but I still prize most highly the vivid Hogwood version with the Academy of Ancient Music with Catherine Bott as Dido and David Thomas as a male Sorceress.

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Stephen Pettitt