This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
Now almost everybody seems to have recorded Dido and Aeneas; and at first glance John Eliot Gardiner—coming to it surprisingly late in his career—seems to have little new to offer. No major dramatic insights, no particular thrills or frills, not the kind of names that would have you rushing to the record stores (apart from his own of course). Perhaps I was just expecting something a little more obvious; but in any case it was only at a second listening that many of its virtues became clear.
Briefly, it is a recording in which everything seems right. His comfortably large string orchestra plays with absolute precision and effortless balance. The Monteverdi Choir are similarly effortless in their ability to sing in a wide
variety of ways—from the joyful music of the first scene, to the improbably fast music in the Witches' scene and to the beautifully judged final swan-song (a passage that so often sounds almost superfluous); this seems incomparably the best choral singing on any of the available Dido recordings. Moreover, the tempos and rhythms all sound absolutely right: notice in particular the fluid way Gardiner treats the trochee/iambus alternations in ''Fear no danger''. My own preference would be for a little more flexibility of metre in some of the dialogues, to help articulate the dramatic action; but Gardiner's relatively literal approach certainly has its own power.
Carolyn Watkinson may not seriously challenge my own favourite Didos (von Otter/Pinnock, Kirkby/Parrott, Murray/Harnoncourt and Troyanos/Mackerras in their astonishingly different ways), but she puts everything beautifully in its place, just as George Mosley shows no weaknesses in the extremely difficult role of Aeneas. But part of the record's great strength is in the way Gardiner has cast his singers: as in no other Dido there is a clear contrast in vocal colour between Dido, Belinda (Ruth Holton) and the Second Lady (Elizabeth Priday) in the first scene, and again between the Sorceress (Teresa Shaw—terrific) and the two Witches (Donna Deam and Shauna Beesley) in the second scene.
Those with a taste for musicological dispute will also relish the accompanying essays: Christian Berger noting the newly proposed earlier dating of Dido and pointing out how appropriate it was to couple the work with the 1683 Ode (beautifully performed, incidentally, with a particularly fine ''Here the deities approve'' from Michael Chance); Curtis Price arguing magisterially and very plausibly against the revised dating; and Sylvie Mamy not accepting the problem.
-- David Fallows, Gramophone [3/1994]
Works on This Recording
Dido and Aeneas, Z 626 by Henry Purcell
George Mosley (Tenor),
Carolyn Watkinson (Soprano)
John Eliot Gardiner
English Baroque Soloists,
Written: 1689; England
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