Purcell's Dido and Aeneas is one of the very few 17th-century works to have entered the operatic "canon" and developed a modern performance tradition before the late 20th century's early-music revival. For listeners who had grown fond of this opera in its "traditional" form, the period-instrument recordings of recent years have provided some odd surprises: an all-female cast (excepting Aeneas); a baritone Sorceress; singing in a style closer to a Restoration playhouse than Covent Garden.
Henry Purcell's Twelve Sonatas of Three Parts were issued in 1683, when the composer was 24 and the first wave of Italian trio sonata-like pieces was hitting France and England with earthshaking impact. Purcell followed Italian models with a pair of interlocking violin parts over a continuo, but the results are unmistakably English and hark back to the melancholy consort tradition, with oddly shaped lines and pungent dissonances scattered through the short, four-movement pieces (six or seven minutes in total).
The Indian Queen was one of Henry Purcell's final works and may in fact have been left unfinished at his death. Defining the state of the text is complicated by the fact that the work is a so-called semi-opera, a defunct form that mixed spoken dialogue, singing, and dance; the function of the surviving music isn't always totally clear. For those reasons, the work hasn't often been recorded. Many of the individual numbers are splendid examples of Purcell's style, with his sparkling ensemble dances and exuberantly rhythmic major-key tunes that seem to shake off dour minor introductory sections.
Compilations are highly useful in understanding the works of the inexhaustibly tuneful British composer Henry Purcell (1659-1695). He had a few big hits, like the Funeral Music for Queen Mary (which is included here) and the opera Dido and Aeneas (which isn't). But much of his best music is scattered around in small bits, residing within genres that are rather odd from today's perspective. Purcell spent much of his short adult life as a theater composer, and his incidental music, for example, is filled with perfect miniatures…
This recording of duets by the great composers of the Restoration is one of the gems of Hyperion’s catalogue. It features the celebrated countertenors James Bowman and Michael Chance at the peak of their powers, and the combination of their two voices with the sympathetic accompaniment of The King’s Consort creates something uniquely glorious.