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Purcell: Fairy Queen, Prophetess - Orchestral Suites / Savall

Release Date: 08/11/2009 
Label:  Alia Vox   Catalog #: 9866   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Henry Purcell
Conductor:  Jordi Savall
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concert des Nations
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.


PURCELL The Fairy Queen: 5 Orchestral Suites. The Prophetess: Orchestral Suite Jordi Savall, cond; Le Concert des Nations (period instruments) ALIA VOX 9866 (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 62:53)

This Read more is an SACD reissue on Alia Vox of a CD originally released in 1996 as Astrée 8717. Fans of Savall know that his conducting reflects similar values to his viola da gamba solos: a nuanced view of phrasing, exceptional attention to the beauty and clarity of textures, and a knowledge of appropriate embellishments. These qualities can be found in some of the outstanding slow movements on this disc, most notably “Love’s a Sweet Passion” from act III of The Fairy Queen . Savall’s version takes 3:06 to play; by comparison, Goodman/Parley of Instruments (Hyperion 67001) gives it to us at 1:34; and Gardiner/English Baroque Soloists (Archiv Produktion 992902) is not much longer. It isn’t that Savall’s Le Concert des Nations plays twice as much content, but that they inflect far more, slowing for embellishments to the theme, pausing at the climax of a phrase, or at its conclusion. It’s anyone’s guess which approach is more authentic, but I find Savall’s phrasing, along with a slightly lower pitch and predominance of darker string instruments, mines the natural melancholy of Purcell’s piece to greater advantage without danger of anachronism.

There’s no lack of bright, energetic delivery elsewhere, though. The Second Musick and the first Retornella of two from The Prophetess deliver this, amidst flurries of trumpets, while the strutting “Dance for the Green men” and crisply genteel “A dance for the Haymakers” do as much in The Fairy Queen . I can’t say that I get much of a surround effect from four speakers on this SACD, but the engineering is excellent, with forward imaging and clean, balanced sound across the spectrum. There’s a lot to be said for several alternatives to Savall: Goodman for completeness, since he includes most of Purcell’s theatrical music on three CDs, and Christie (Harmonia Mundi 901308) for using several fine singers, including Veronique Gens and Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, instead of relying entirely on instrumentalists. But Savall and Le Concert des Nations remain in the top tier of performances for me. If you haven’t heard them before in this music, by all means give them a try.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

Fairy Queen, Z 629: Suite by Henry Purcell
Conductor:  Jordi Savall
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concert des Nations
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1692; England 
Prophetess, Z 627: Suite by Henry Purcell
Conductor:  Jordi Savall
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concert des Nations
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1690; England 

Featured Sound Samples

The Prophetess: Suite: Second Musick
The Fairy Queen: First Act Suite: Second Music: Air
The Fairy Queen: Third Act Suite: Dance for the Fairies

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