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English Fancy - Purcell, Jenkins, Campion / Fortin, Masques


Release Date: 09/16/2008 
Label:  Analekta   Catalog #: 22008   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Henry PurcellJohn JenkinsThomas Campion
Performer:  Shannon Mercer
Conductor:  Olivier Fortin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Masques
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Three outstanding composers are represented here in this delightful and well-conceived program

Analekta continue to mine the rich and relatively untapped treasure trove that is Canadian music making. Recent years have seen quite an upsurge in the early music realm of the great white north. This disc is yet another beautifully played and attractively presented program from the youthful string ensemble that calls itself Masques. The addition of soprano Shannon Mercer is splendid icing on a very lovely and tasty cake.

The period in England that was book ended by the reigns of Henry VIII and Charles II was a golden age in English music making. The apex of the period was the long and colorful era of Elizabeth I
Read more (r. 1558-1603), a time that saw tremendous royal patronage of the arts and a flourishing of exemplary musicians. Because of her long and illustrious time on the throne, the entire epoch bears her name.

Three outstanding composers are represented here in this delightful and well-conceived program. Thomas Campion was not a professional musician at all, yet such was his skill that he composed and produced a number of masques (early staged musical productions) and wrote a vast body of songs for solo voice and sundry instruments. T.S. Eliot regarded him as one of the greatest lyric poets in English history. He is represented here by a number of his songs, elegantly and artfully delivered by soprano Shannon Mercer, whose clear and unaffected singing is a delight to the ear.

John Jenkins enjoyed an unusually long and productive life, and consequently left behind a rather sizeable body of work, mainly for consorts of viols, the predecessors to the modern string family. His music is characterized by a certain sweetness of melody and gentleness of rhythmic motion. To their immense credit, the players here manage to find the inner pulse of this music, music which is often allowed to ooze along without much rhythmic drive, thus rendering it easy on the ear, but prone to be dull. Happily, these performances hold the listener’s interest from start to finish.

Henry Purcell is widely regarded as England’s outstanding native contribution to the music of the Baroque period (Handel doesn’t count, he was born German.) Perhaps no other composer until Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) was as skilled at setting the English language to music, and although he lived but a brief life, he was able to produce a remarkable amount of music. Amongst his favorite compositional techniques was the use of the ground bass, often called by its Italian name of passacaglia in which the harmonic structure is centered on a repeating bass melody. The restrictions that this method places upon the composer could derail a lesser practitioner, but Purcell made the gesture his own and came up with some fascinating harmonic maneuvers in the process. A prime example of this technique is the aria When I am laid in Earth from his only true opera Dido and Aeneas (1689).

Perhaps more famous for his vocal music than his instrumental, Purcell was nonetheless gifted in this area as well, and is represented here by two fine examples of his trio sonatas, beautifully played.

A special mention should be made about the skillful programming of this disc. The longer instrumental works are nicely interspersed by brief but lovely songs performed to perfection by Ms. Mercer, making for an interesting variety of timbres and moods, and capturing the interest of the listener throughout the entire concert. In an epoch whose music was characterized by standard formulae and common dance rhythms, discs of all one genre can get pretty tiresome and monotonous. By breaking up the musical styles and with the insertion of vocal works, Masques have given us a program that is refreshingly varied.

Analekta were a bit skimpy on the program notes, keeping them more general on a disc of music this specialized than might be desired by connoisseur listeners. Otherwise, production values are fine, and I expect that male buyers will be a bit envious of the fact that M. Fortin gets to spend his days surrounded by so attractive and talented a group of ladies!

A real winner on all fronts. Highly recommended.

-- Kevin Sutton, MusicWeb International [reviewing original release]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Libertine, Z 600: Nymphs and shepherds, come away by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Shannon Mercer (Soprano)
Conductor:  Olivier Fortin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Masques
Period: Baroque 
Written: ?1692; England 
Length: 2 Minutes 9 Secs. 
2.
Dido and Aeneas, Z 626: Thy hand, Belinda...When I am laid in earth by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Shannon Mercer (Soprano)
Conductor:  Olivier Fortin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Masques
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1689; England 
Length: 3 Minutes 23 Secs. 
3.
Oedipus, Z 583: Music for a while by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Shannon Mercer (Soprano)
Conductor:  Olivier Fortin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Masques
Period: Baroque 
Written: ?1692; England 
Length: 4 Minutes 7 Secs. 
4.
Fantasia Suite no 1 in G minor by John Jenkins
Conductor:  Olivier Fortin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Masques
Period: Baroque 
Written: 17th Century; England 
Length: 8 Minutes 1 Secs. 
5.
Fantasia Suite for 2 Violins, 2 Bass Viols and Organ no 8 in D major by John Jenkins
Conductor:  Olivier Fortin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Masques
Period: Baroque 
Written: 17th Century; England 
Length: 7 Minutes 15 Secs. 
6.
Sweet exclude me not nor be divided by Thomas Campion
Performer:  Shannon Mercer (Soprano)
Conductor:  Olivier Fortin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Masques
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1613; England 
Length: 3 Minutes 17 Secs. 
7.
Second Booke of Ayres, 'Light Conceits of Lovers': The peacefull westerne winde by Thomas Campion
Performer:  Shannon Mercer (Soprano)
Conductor:  Olivier Fortin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Masques
Written: pub 1613 
Length: 4 Minutes 1 Secs. 
8.
Come away, arm'd with loves delights by Thomas Campion
Performer:  Shannon Mercer (Soprano)
Conductor:  Olivier Fortin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Masques
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1613; England 
Length: 1 Minutes 59 Secs. 
9.
Give beauty all her right by Thomas Campion
Performer:  Shannon Mercer (Soprano)
Conductor:  Olivier Fortin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Masques
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1613; England 
Length: 3 Minutes 34 Secs. 
10.
O deare that I with thee might live by Thomas Campion
Performer:  Shannon Mercer (Soprano)
Conductor:  Olivier Fortin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Masques
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1613; England 
Length: 2 Minutes 3 Secs. 
11.
Trio Sonatas (12) for 2 Violins and Basso Continuo: no 6 in C minor, Z 795 by Henry Purcell
Conductor:  Olivier Fortin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Masques
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1680; England 
Length: 6 Minutes 5 Secs. 
12.
Her rosie cheekes, her ever smiling eyes by Thomas Campion
Performer:  Shannon Mercer (Soprano)
Conductor:  Olivier Fortin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Masques
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1613; England 
Length: 2 Minutes 33 Secs. 
13.
Fantasia Suite no 2 in A minor: no 1, Fantasia by John Jenkins
Conductor:  Olivier Fortin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Masques
Period: Baroque 
Written: 17th Century; England 
Length: 3 Minutes 54 Secs. 
14.
Fantasia Suite no 2 in A minor: no 2, Almain by John Jenkins
Conductor:  Olivier Fortin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Masques
Period: Baroque 
Written: 17th Century; England 
Length: 2 Minutes 7 Secs. 
15.
Fantasia Suite no 2 in A minor: no 3, Corant by John Jenkins
Conductor:  Olivier Fortin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Masques
Period: Baroque 
Written: 17th Century; England 
Length: 2 Minutes 2 Secs. 
16.
Trio Sonatas (12) for 2 Violins and Basso Continuo: no 5 in A minor, Z 794 by Henry Purcell
Conductor:  Olivier Fortin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Masques
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1680; England 
Length: 4 Minutes 50 Secs. 

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