Purcell: Songs and instrumental works; plus instrumental works by Francisco Corbetta, Christopher Simpson & Robert de Visée

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COMPOSERS: Purcell
LABELS: Ambroisie
WORKS: Songs and instrumental works; plus instrumental works by Francisco Corbetta, Christopher Simpson & Robert de Visée
PERFORMER: Paul Agnew (tenor), Anne-Marie Lasla (bass viol), Elizabeth Kenny (theorbo, guitar), Blandine Rannou (harpsichord, organ)
CATALOGUE NO: AM 185

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All the intensity of Purcell’s tragically short career is compressed into this selection of vocal works which ranges from the dramatic to the contemplative and from high seriousness to earthy frivolity.  

This Anglo-French group of performers highlights the eclectic influences on the Londoner: there are echoes of French courtly airs in his discretely ornate vocal writing; and of Parisian opéra-ballets in his hypnotic chaconnes, dance-inspired rhythms and declamatory recitatives. There’s more than a dash of Italian flamboyancy on display here, too, yet filtered through Purcell’s distinctly English lens. 

Paul Agnew’s long experience in the realm of French Baroque music makes him particularly sensitive to le goût français, his voice supple enough to realise with exquisite grace the intricate, French-style recitatives and embellishments. In the simpler songs and laments, he croons with the seductive tones of a veritable chanteur de charme.  

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But this is not merely a stellar solo performance. Anne-Marie Lasla, Elizabeth Kenny and Blandine Rannou provide inspired continuo realisations, full of improvisatory flair and theatricality. Virtuosos in their own right, they each shine in solo instrumental works by Purcell’s contemporaries Francisco Corbetta, Robert de Visée and Christopher Simpson. The rapport between these four musicians lifts the music far beyond the written notes producing a perfect entente cordiale. Kate Bolton