Purcell: The Fairy Queen

Purcell: The Fairy Queen
Gabrieli Consort and Players, Paul McCreesh

St John’s, Smith Square. 1 November 2018

The Gabrieli Consort and Players could probably perform The Fairy Queen in their sleep, such is their experience of Purcell’s music, and this particular work, over many years. They have performed it at the BBC Proms, the Barbican, the Spitalfields Festival and many other venues around the world. They now plan to record it, along with King Arthur, early in the New Year, with the same forces as appeared in this St John’s, Smith Square performance. Their crowdfunding campaign page can be found here.

One of the continuing successes of the Gabrieli’s and their director Paul McCreesh is their ability to reinvent themselves and to continually question and push boundaries in their approach to their music making. For this particular recording (and this concert) they stress that “Gabrieli also brings a forensic understanding of contemporaneous performance techniques to this repertoire, including a new bow hold for string players which transforms articulation and influences tempi; wind instruments using more basic, coarser reeds, for a more martial sound; and natural trumpets performing on instruments without holes, playing entirely through the adjustment of embouchure – a high wire act!“. This was also the premiere of a new performing edition, prepared by McCreesh and Christopher Suckling, their principal bass violinist. It was performed at the low ‘French’ pitch of 392Hz and the violins played using French bow holds.  If this suggests an academic approach to music making, the experience of this concert proved to be anything but. It was a compelling and exuberant performance, semi-staged, albeit with only one ‘prop’ – in the shape of an enormous bleached-white wig for Mopsa, aka Charles Daniels. Continue reading

Western Wind: Music by John Taverner & Court Music for Henry VIII

Western Wind
Music by John Taverner & Court Music for Henry VIII
Taverner Choir & Players, Andrew Parrott
Avie AV2352. 79’20

When I first saw the cover of this CD and the names of the performers, I started looking to see if this was a re-release of an earlier recording. But it is a new recording, made in 2015, featuring the distinguished names of singers Emily Van Evera and Charles Daniels, alongside Andrew Parrott and his Taverner Choir and Players. Most recordings or concerts based on a Mass setting interweave vocal motets around the usual Mass movements in an attempted liturgical reconstruction but, very refreshingly, this CD incorporates a miscellany of instrumental and vocal music related to the Court of Henry VIII alongside The Western Wynde Mass by John Taverner, an almost exact contemporary of the King.

The CD opens with a solo recorder, playing the 16th century melody of Westron wynde before the chanted Kyrie. As was usual in English mass settings Continue reading