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Purcell


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Author Topic: Purcell  (Read 1001 times)
Dear Prudence
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« on: May 06, 2009, 04:31:00 pm »

Purcell.  I have I find a fancy for Purcell but know not a lot of his Operas and Oratarios.  I have on at the moment Dido & Aeneas by Christopher Hogwood and the AAM.  I find this so delightfully camp, is there an even camper version?  The Hail Bright Cecilia I have is with Roger Covey Crump (indeed a name to be conjured with) but also variations by such as Judith Weir and Michael Torke which are quite interesting, in their own way.  My Indian Queen is also Christopher Hogwood and the AAM.

Would members agree that there is no finest exponent of Purcell than Christopher Hogwood and his merry band?  And, if they disagree, who would they recommend?
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Reiner Torheit
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« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2009, 10:40:37 pm »

Hogwood is certainly capable, and as an astute musician (and impresario) he usually chooses soloists who will do a good job, and whose names will flog a lot of disks.

I do, however, find his approach rather effete at times.  It's worth hearing - if only for the sake of comparison - the recordings of Purcell made by William Christie with his ensemble Les Arts Florissants.  Christie takes a more robust approach, whilst still achieving his results with period instruments and well-researched performance practice no less impeccable than Hogwood's.  Moreover Christie has generally preferred to work with mainstream singers rather than "early music specialists", and this is my biggest problem with Hogwood... that his singers all sound as though they've escaped from Choral Evensong.  This "puritan" style could not be more inappropriate to Purcell, I feel.  I'd especially recommend auditioning Christie's recording of KING ARTHUR as an illustration of what it sounds like with the cojones added back.

Another performer I've mentioned on the Handel thread is Kevin Mallon - who is a former Arts Florissants player himself, and largely embraces the "bigger" sound in his own performances with his Aradia Ensemble.  They've recorded quite a bit of the Purcell Theatre Music on Naxos.

Although they are now classed as "heritage" performances, for guts and vigour the extensive recordings made by the Deller Ensemble (originally released on black vinyl on Oiseau-Lyre in the 1970s-80s) have much to recommend them, and they can be found reissued at budget price, or often as mp3 downloads.
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« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2009, 08:02:29 am »

Roger Covey Crump (indeed a name to be conjured with)

Rogers Covey Crump - even more jugglable.
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smittims
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« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2009, 10:22:21 am »

I like Purcell's operas, and in particular the 'Fairy Queen'. I'm looking forward to this year's 'semi-staged' Prom perfomance.

Despite advances in 'period' performance' it seems unlikely that, except as  a rarity,  we will have Purcell's operas  performed  as they were originally staged , with a spoken play and ingenious stage effects, the music being  only one ingredient.  Opera audiences still seem not to want long stretches of spoken dialogue .

For this reason I've welcomed Benjamin Britten's 'concert version' of the 'Fairy Queen' which presents probably the best two-thirds of the music re-ordered to make more musical sense. And for 'King Arhur' and 'The Indian Queen' I've been content with the Lewis and Mackerras recorodngs. I find 'period' perfomances of Purcell miss the richness of the music and make it sound too precious and small-scale. 
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Dear Prudence
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« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2009, 04:52:22 pm »

Thank you Mr. smittims and Mr. Torheit, I too am looking forward to Purcell at the Proms although, in perusing your recommendations I found the cost of the cds to be exceedingly high!  Where may one obtain cheap downloads?  To give one a taste, as it were, particularly of King Arthur which strikes me as very bold and derring-do, Knights in chain mail and all that.  If I understand rightly in King Arthur the main characters speak whilst the minor characters (nymphs, shepherdesses, sing) I don't think I would have a problem with that.  Surely too much Opera is overblown and simplicity would be a virtue?

But surely, Mr. smittims, you say "I find 'period' perfomances of Purcell miss the richness of the music and make it sound too precious and small-scale." but then how are we to approach Purcell if not, in period performances?  I suppose the question is, how can we know how it was perfromed, and I guess the answer is "We don't, so is this the best we can do"
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Reiner Torheit
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« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2009, 12:55:14 am »

The Christie/Arts Florissants recording of KING ARTHUR can be downloaded for under six quid (if ordered complete) from Amazon.co.uk,  from this page:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Purcell-King-Arthur/dp/B001LBPVGA/ref=dm_cd_album_lnk

As usual on Amazon, one can audition part-tracks before purchase.  Individual tracks can be purchased, but the pricing hardly encourages this unless only 1-2 items are of interest.

I do rather sympathise with Smittims's viewpoint about the absence of the "bigger" sound in certain rather precious HIPP performances - it's the main reason that I prefer Christie to Hogwood in this (and other) works... Christie has the "swagger" in his performances that seems credible to me as the music that so abruptly grabbed public attention after the enforced musical vacuum of the Interregnum.
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smittims
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« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2009, 08:14:25 am »

Dear Prudence asks ' how are we to approach Purcell if not, in period performances?'

Well, I think the best peformances of Purcell,that is to say those that go to the heart of the music and reveal its greatness, are those I mentioned: The Anthony Lewis 'King Arthur', the Charles Mackerras 'Indian Queen'and the Benjamin Britten 'Fairy Queen'. They are not period performances as they use modern instruments and singing styles. But they have much more depth and expressive range, to my ears.

I don't think the ideal peformance is one which reproduces what the composer would have heard, but one which best reveals the music, given that music is an idea behind the sound used to convey it. I think that is best achieved by taking a completely fresh look at the music in the context of the composer's life and personality (what we know of it) to try to discover what the psychological  premise is. Daniel Barenboim's recording of Bach's 48 preludes and fugues is an example of this approach, as is the Britten/Janet Baker 'Dido and Aeneas' , whuch ,for me ,made that opera a living thing for today rather than a museum piece. 



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guest2
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« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2009, 01:29:05 pm »

I don't think the ideal peformance is one which reproduces what the composer would have heard, but one which best reveals the music, given that music is an idea behind the sound used to convey it. I think that is best achieved by taking a completely fresh look at the music in the context of the composer's life and personality (what we know of it) to try to discover what the psychological  premise is. Daniel Barenboim's recording of Bach's 48 preludes and fugues is an example of this approach . . .

It is interesting that you should say that, Smittims, because on the old R3ok forum there was a long discussion about each of Bach's 48 Preludes and Fugues in turn (also about his Clavierübung III), and a lot of it consisted of comparisons between different performers on both the harpsichord and the piano.

Barenboim's name came up in relation to his performance of the three-part Fugue in E major from Book I. The general opinion there was that a) his performance was so rushed as to be little more than a blur, b) that the fine bouncing bass line at the end was completely lost, and c) that in the left-hand part of bar 24 he plays two notes which were later corrected by Bach, as seen in the Urtext edition. (I am combining remarks made by two of the members there, with very different backgrounds.)

Sorry - I don't wish to derail the discussion of Purcell - but thought this alternative view of Barenboim's  performance was worth noting.
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smittims
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« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2009, 03:03:34 pm »

I didn't see that discussion, but that is the first unfavourable remark I've seen of the Barenboim recording which has won considerable praise elsewhere.

I've just listened to it again and I have to say I find his tempo ideal, and his emphases bring out just the right rigour and tension of the piece.  I've compared him also with the interpretsations I consider the great ones: Edwin Fischer, Walter Gieseking , Wanda Landowska and Rosalyn Tureck and I have to put him firmly in  their company. I'd be very surprised to find a performance which gave more satisfaction.
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Tony Watson
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« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2009, 11:18:34 pm »

Did anyone see the programme on BBC2 "The Birth of British Music" which dealt with Purcell? I was surprised that both the BBC announcer and Charles Hazlewood, who presented it, pronounce the name with the stress on the second syllable. Is this BBC policy now? I thought that way of saying his name went out in the 1960s.
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smittims
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« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2009, 08:53:49 am »

Hi, Tony, yes , I watched the programme.

I always used to say 'PURR-sel' and so did everyone  I knew, up to 1971, when I went to university and met some frightfully clever chaps who always said 'per-SELL' , which sounded artificial to me. Maybe it depends where one  heard it first. I believe it's a common name in Ireland; I wonder how they say it there.

It reminds me of Leonard Bast:  ' was it "Tannhowser" or "Tannhoyser"? better not risk it.'





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