At the royal court in 17th-century England, musicians were expected to perform at high days and holidays: the king’s birthday, New Year, and when the monarch returned to London from his summer break. Purcell adds his usual musical panache and genius for word setting to such miniature jewels as the 15-minute Welcome, Viceregent of the Mighty King and Fly, Bold Rebellion, a seven-movement ode celebrating the king’s return to the Palace of Whitehall after the quelling of a “disloyal crowd.” Harry Christophers assembles musical forces in line with Purcell’s own, and all perform with flair and elegance.
Glossa continues its major contribution to the recording of the music of Jean-Philippe Rameau with a further ballet héroïque, Les Fêtes de Polymnie, directed by György Vashegyi and featuring accomplished ramistes such as Aurélia Legay, Emöke Barath or Mathias Vidal, and led by the incomparable Véronique Gens in the various vocal roles that appear in the Prologue and the three Entrées of this work.
The seven partitas of Harmonia Artificiosa-Ariosa contain some of Biber’s finest chamber music outside of the Mystery Sonatas. They are consistently inventive and delightful. Especially noteworthy is the extended No. 7 in C minor with its lovely Arietta, actually more of a passacaglia/chaconne. No.3 ends with a chaconne structured as a canon in unison over a popular Italian bass line. This is so similar in concept to Pachelbel’s ubiquitous canon that you can’t help wondering if one of them took a cue from the other. Certainly, if wrested from obscurity, Biber’s might give Pachelbel’s a run for its money.
Intellectually concentrated, emotionally intense, technically difficult, and spiritually sublime, Henry Purcell's Fantasias for the Viols are exactly the sort of music that Jordi Savall was born to play and play superbly. And with his group Hesperion XX, they play them as superbly Savall does. The depth of tone of the instruments, the brilliance of the technique, the rigor of the interpretations, the soulfulness of the understanding, and the transcendence of compassion are nonpareil and the performances achieve a level unmatched by any other.
Although written for the configuration of two violins and continuo, Dietrich Buxtehude's Seven Sonatas, Op. 1, are not trio sonatas in the usual sense. They refer back to the older type of Italian ensemble sonata, with contrasting short sections following in rapid succession rather than the three- or four-movement sonata or dance suite types. Buxtehude came at the end of this tradition, which by 1694, when these sonatas were first published, was beginning to give way to newer Italian types in points further south.
Originally conceived as a play with musical accompaniment, Henry Purcell's 1691 King Arthur endures on the strength of its adventurous harmonies and appealing orchestration. Laying aside the Camelot legends, poet John Dryden framed the tale as the Christian King Arthur defending England against the pagan Saxons, and added colorful visitations by Greek and Norse deities to the plot.