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Sweeter than Roses

Amorous music
by Purcell -

'... glorious song with inspirational accompaniments.'

Henry Purcell: Victorious Love - Carolyn Sampson. © 2007 BIS Records AB

Two song anthologies (Orpheus Britannicus, Vol 1, 1698, Vol 2, 1702 and Ayres for the Theatre, 1697), published shortly after the death of 36-year-old Henry Purcell in 1695, have inspired this enchanting, uncommonly varied programme spearheaded by nonpareil baroque soprano Carolyn Sampson.

Featured lutenist Elizabeth Kenny explains: 'recital programmes put together from the anthologies by the original purchasers would have mixed the genres without inhibition. People usually sang what they liked and played what they liked, in any order they liked.'

It was this 'laid back' approach which prompted Bedford-born soprano Carolyn Sampson and her co-performers to combine settings with accompaniments ranging from a single lute or spinet to string quartet with continuo. A somewhat unfamiliar, informal Purcell emerges -- a composer of Gebrauchsmusik.

'Gebrauchsmusik' is best defined as 'utility music', not written only for its own sake, but for some recognisable purpose; a historical event, political rally or military ceremony ... still more likely to accompany dance, or simply for amateurs/students to perform.

Kenny elaborates further -- Seen from modern, historically-informed or 'authentic' perspectives here we find Purcell in unconventional (yet respected) guise ... 'flexibly scored and flexibly interpretable: virtuosic if the performers wish, innocently affecting if not.'

Here are some of Purcell's best loved songs as well as lesser-known gems; and for the 'album' title the artists have selected a line from the opening song Sweeter than roses: 'What magic has victorious love' [listen -- track 1, 2:19-3:21].

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Copyright © 14 February 2008 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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