Purcell, Arne

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Arne,Purcell
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Orpheus with his lute
WORKS: Music for Shakespeare from Purcell to Arne
PERFORMER: Catherine Bott (soprano); Parley of Instruments/Peter Holman
This is a tough challenge: 17 short songs, many by second-rank composers, entrusted to a single singer, leavened with an overture and a minor flute concerto. Yet the result is a triumph. The Parley’s 11 strings fill the Jeremiah Clarke Titus Andronicus Overture with imaginative detail, sustaining dissonances in the slow opening, tripping transparently through the fugal section, ending with the most elegant of minuets. An E minor Concerto by Woodcock is deliciously understated as Brown effortlessly places every nuance within the broader musical span. But the disc’s special strength lies in Catherine Bott’s mercurial characterisation. She clearly ponders and analyses texts deeply, both overall and as single words and phrases. She is in turn pert with clipped vowels, languorous with sustained legato, seductive with teasing portamenti. ‘Spotted snakes’ evoke a cold mezzo-voce in unison with strings; ‘Full fathom five’ is emptier still. Thomas Chilcott’s ‘Orpheus with his lute’ is utterly riveting in its simplicity; Richard Leveridge’s ‘owl’ hoots with a chilling tremble; Purcell’s ‘Dear pretty youth’ is wooed with a passion which calculatedly throws intonation to the winds. With the programme arranged by play rather than chronology, creating an alluring stylistic variety within its 100-or-so-year span, and excellent sound, music for Shakespeare doesn’t come better than this. George Pratt