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Purcell: Harmonia Sacra / Rosemary Joshua, Christophe Rousset, Les Talens Lyriques

Purcell / Joshua / Talens Lyriques / Rousset
Release Date: 05/08/2012 
Label:  Aparte   Catalog #: 27   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Henry Purcell
Performer:  Rosemary JoshuaChristophe Rousset
Conductor:  Christophe Rousset
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Talens Lyriques
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



PURCELL Tell Me, Some Pitying Angel. In the Black, Dismal Dungeon of Despair. Air in G. Great God, and Just. My Song Shall Be Always. Ground in D. Lord, What Is Man. Let the Night Perish. Chaconne in G. The Night Is Come. With Sick and Famish’d Eyes. How Have I Strayed. Suite in G. My Opening Eyes Are Purged. Ground in C. Sleep, Adam, and Take Thy Rest. Thou Read more Wakeful Shepherd. The Earth Trembled. Now That the Sun Hath Veil’d His Light Rosemary Joshua (s); Christophe Rousset (hpd, cond); Les Talens Lyriques APARTE 027 (75:41)


Having just listened to the clear, open voice of Dorothee Mields sing Purcell’s Tell Me, Some Pitying Angel ( The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation), I was not prepared for the crabbed, tremulous, vibrato-laden intensity of Rosemary Joshua’s singing on the same sacred song. The disc, conducted by Christophe Rousset, and featuring illustrious players such as Elizabeth Kenny on lute, is titled Harmonia Sacra. As the title suggests, it contains Purcell’s sacred music mostly, with several attractive keyboard works added.


I am not sure about the theology behind The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation, with its interesting text by the oft-scorned poet Nahum Tate. Her plaint reminds me of the cowering girl Dante Gabriel Rossetti painted as she received from the imposing angel Gabriel the clearly frightening news of her upcoming pregnancy. Here, in Tate’s version, the young Jesus is busy elsewhere, and the visitation and the rest all seem a waking dream. She struggles: “faith and doubt my lab’ring soul divide.” She calls; he comes not. Seemingly abandoned by her son, no longer seeming “the most bless’d” mother others thought her, she concludes, “I trust the God, but oh! I fear the child.” Rosemary Joshua’s rendition is designed, it seems to me, to bring out the character’s intense vulnerability. Perhaps the vibrato is excessive in this music. Trained in opera—she has sung Die Fledermaus at the Met—Joshua is an actress. She almost snarls Job’s bitter words, “Let the night perish; cursed by the morn / Wherein ’twas said: there is a manchild born!” Then she seems to retreat into something more pacific, until she acts out the groan Job imagines unborn babes giving as they die. Faith brings comfort eventually, even to Job, but it is striking how many of Purcell’s texts depressingly tell of various dark nights of the soul: “My throat, my soul is hoarse, / My heart is wither’d like a ground / Which thou dost curse,” wrote George Herbert, whereas John Norris asks simply, “How long, great God, must I / Immured in this dark prison lie?”


The mood is periodically lightened by Rousset’s lively renditions of the often neglected keyboard music. I am not sure Joshua’s vibrant singing is characteristic of, or particularly true to, the style. I don’t always find it ideal. Others will respond to her skillful ornamentation, to her vocal acting, and to the variety she brings to Purcell. Her accompaniments are always lovely, and Rousset’s playing a draw.


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Works on This Recording

1. Thou wakeful shepherd, Z 198 "Morning Hymn" by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Rosemary Joshua (Soprano)
Conductor:  Christophe Rousset
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Talens Lyriques
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1688; England 
2. Tell me, some pitying angel, Z 196 "Blessed Virgin's Expostulation" by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Rosemary Joshua (Soprano)
Conductor:  Christophe Rousset
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Talens Lyriques
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1693; England 
3. Sleep, Adam, sleep and take thy rest, Z 195 by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Rosemary Joshua (Soprano)
Conductor:  Christophe Rousset
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Talens Lyriques
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1683; England 
4. Now that the sun hath veiled his light, Z 193 "Evening Hymn on a Ground" by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Rosemary Joshua (Soprano)
Conductor:  Christophe Rousset
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Talens Lyriques
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1688; England 
5. Night is come, Z D77 by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Rosemary Joshua (Soprano)
Conductor:  Christophe Rousset
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Talens Lyriques
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1693; England 
6. My op'ning eyes are purg'd, Z D72 by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Rosemary Joshua (Soprano)
Conductor:  Christophe Rousset
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Talens Lyriques
Period: Baroque 
Written: England 
7. Lord, what is man?, Z 192 by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Rosemary Joshua (Soprano)
Conductor:  Christophe Rousset
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Talens Lyriques
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1693; England 
8. How long, great God, Z 189 by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Rosemary Joshua (Soprano)
Conductor:  Christophe Rousset
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Talens Lyriques
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1688; England 
9. Ground for Harpsichord in D minor, Z D222 "Celebrate this Festival" by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Conductor:  Christophe Rousset
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Talens Lyriques
Period: Baroque 
Written: England 
10. Ground for Harpsichord in C minor, Z D221 by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Conductor:  Christophe Rousset
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Talens Lyriques
Period: Baroque 
Written: England 
11. The earth trembled, Z 197 by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Rosemary Joshua (Soprano)
Conductor:  Christophe Rousset
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Talens Lyriques
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1688; England 
12. In the black dismal dungeon of despair, Z 190 by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Rosemary Joshua (Soprano)
Conductor:  Christophe Rousset
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Talens Lyriques
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1688; England 
13. Chacony for Strings in G minor, Z 730 by Henry Purcell
Period: Baroque 
Written: England 

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