COMPOSERS: Daniel Purcell,Purcell
WORKS: The Indian Queen.The Masque of Hymen
PERFORMER: Scholars Baroque Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553752
The Indian Queen, with its text by poet laureate Dryden and brother-in-law Robert Howard, dates from 1695 and was Purcell’s last major stage work. Unlike his earlier semi-operas consisting, as Roger North put it, of ‘half Musick and half Drama’, The Indian Queen was cast as a tragedy, in which the music of its prologue and five acts – the concluding Masque was composed by Purcell’s brother Daniel – form an integral part.
The Scholars Baroque Ensemble has already proved itself an effective interpreter of Purcell’s music, with recordings of Dido and Aeneas and The Fairy Queen, both for Naxos. The Indian Queen is consistent with these, in pursuing the one-period-instrument-to-a-part principle which establishes its distinctive, and mainly satisfying, chamber performance character. Vocalists and instrumentalists alike enliven the music with their fluent sense of style and lightly articulated delivery. Certainly, there are occasional rough edges to both singing and playing, but I was drawn to a performance which discovers so many expressive delicacies in the music, and which communicates them without bluster, caricature or over-inflated gesture. Zempoalla’s ravishing air, ‘I attempt from Love’s sickness to fly in vain’ is enchantingly sung by soprano Kym Amps. Do not pass this over. I cannot recall having previously enjoyed an Indian Queen as much as this one. The disc contains music for both the play and the masque, but omits any spoken dialogue. Nicholas Anderson