You really won’t be disappointed with these stylish, polished, engaging performances.
In the old days—that is, the 1980s and ‘90s—this is a recording that would have been done by the Baltimore Consort, with soprano Custer LaRue; but they would have left out the boring stuff, all those endlessly plodding “grounds”, or the excessively torturous (as opposed to the reasonably tortuous) six-and-one-half-minute Expostulation of the Blessed Virgin, in favor of livelier, more virtuosic, or just more light-hearted or even humorous material.
Mields is certainly a wonderful singer—indeed, this is some of the best work she’s done—and the instrumentalists are first-rate. But I don’t buy the legitimacy of theRead more programmatic device that supposedly unifies the chosen repertoire: a “journey into the extremities of the life of the soul, caused by feelings of love.” The word “mad” pops up frequently in the liner notes, supposedly a theme that links all of the music, by Purcell and a few contemporaries—but you’ll be hard pressed to hear and feel this connection as you listen.
That’s not to say that the program isn’t composed of some fine and well-chosen songs—and Mields has admirable command of the material; yet her final, gorgeously sung Dido’s Lament lacks a true emotional connection with the character’s situation, eliminating that oft-recorded, beloved aria as a reason to own the disc. But there are plenty more reasons among the 31 tracks—and if you’re a fan of this period and place (latter 17th-century England), and of songs such as “Sing, sing Ye Druids” and “The Three Ravens”, you really won’t be disappointed with these stylish, polished, engaging performances.