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Nicely Thought-out

The early music ensemble Concert Royal
celebrates the Purcell anniversary,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


York-based early music ensemble Concert Royal celebrated the Purcell anniversary with a programme of vocal and instrumental music by both Purcell himself and some of his contemporaries (Derby Chamber Music, Multi-Faith Centre, Derby University, Derby, UK, 20 February 2009).

There was some lively instrumental playing, particularly in two of Purcell's keyboard suites and a selection of pieces from the 1689 collection The Second Part of Musick's Handmaid, and in recorder sonatas by Daniel Purcell and the almost completely obscure George Bingham.

Three tunes from Playford's The English Dancing Master made an interesting addition to the programme, though 'Newcastle' was unexpectedly slow. While this allowed for some expressive ornamentation, any dancers would have been completely flummoxed.

The vocal numbers were the least satisfactory part of the evening. The heart-rending cries of 'Gabriel!' in The Blessed Virgin's Expostulation were effective, but in general there was not enough tonal variety. Words were not clear in some places, over-clipped in others. 'Music for a While' lacked magic, turning into more of a weary plod.

Performing Purcell's vocal duets with recorder playing the lower part worked well enough on its own terms, but the lack of a second voice was felt nevertheless, particularly in 'Sound the Trumpet' which ended the evening. With voice and recorder in different octaves, the delicious interplay of two equal lines was somewhat diminished.

Readings from Samuel Pepys' diary were well-chosen, but delivered in a rather mannered style.

A nicely thought-out programme, but the performances were a bit too well-behaved to make a real impact.

Copyright © 7 March 2009 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK


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