Notes and Editorial Reviews
The various Purcell releases of the last few years have come in many guises, from the wildly entertaining to the merely informative. This disc, containing instrumental theatre music, need only be enjoyed for what it is, which is an exhilarating reminder that, whatever Purcell was, he was simply one of the greatest tune-writers Britain has ever produced. That would be beyond doubt, of course, even if all we knew were the show-stopping song-tunes contained here, such as “Fairest isle” from King Arthur or “If love’s a sweet passion” from The Fairy Queen. But when practically every Trumpet Tune and Rondeau has you tapping your feet and wanting to sing along, you know you are in the presence of genius. The four suites which Tafelmusik have
selected from the Ayres for the Theatre, published by Purcell’s widow a few months after his death, are each taken from one of the composer’s great semi-operas of the 1690s, and the end result is a succession of 50 short, catchy numbers, mainly for strings but sometimes also featuring oboes and trumpets. Unlike a number of collections of this sort, it is never in any danger of outstaying its welcome.
Tafelmusik are surely one of the best-equipped baroque orchestras in the world to perform this music. They have an unparalleled ability to play straightforwardly well with uncomplicated energy and high polish, and given that performing this kind of music in suite form necessarily banishes all considerations of theatrical context, perhaps that is all that is needed. True, these performances probably reek more of the studio than the playhouse, but if after Purcell Year has gone all you want to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the music, then this is certainly a disc to do it with.
-- Lindsay Kemp, Gramophone [2/1996]
Works on This Recording
Prophetess, Z 627: Suite by Henry Purcell
Written: 1690; England
Fairy Queen, Z 629: Suite by Henry Purcell
Written: 1692; England
Indian Queen, Z 630: Suite by Henry Purcell
Written: 1695; England
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