PURCELL: The Tempest (Aradia Ensemble/ Brett Polegato/ Gillian Keith/ Kevin Mallon/ Meredith Hall/ Michael Colvin/ Nils Brown/ Norman Engel/ Paul Grindlay/ Rosemarie van der Hooft) (Naxos: 8.554262)
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The Tempest; If ever Imore riches did desire; Trumpet Pieces
The English composer Henry Purcell died at a tragically young age, avictim of a cold he caught, having been locked out by his wife because he hadcome home too late, according to one account of the matter. Yet, for histhirty-six years, he wrote an extraordinary amount of music, both religious andsecular. By the age of eighteen he had spent eight years in the service of theChapel Royal, until 1673 as a chorister and thereafter as an assistant to theKeeper of the King's Instruments. By 1677, when he was appointed by KingCharles II to the post of Composer in Ordinary for the Violins, on the death ofhis friend and mentor, Matthew Locke, he had already been composing for tenyears.
With the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, King Charles II,who had spent part of his exile in France, was quick to bring back music againto the court and theatre. He restored the practices of the Church of Englandwhich had prevailed before the ten years of Puritan dictatorship andestablished a Band of Twenty-Four Violins on the model of the Vingt-QuatreViolons of Louis XIV. This is the model used for the present recording.
The setting of Abraham Cowley's If ever I more riches did desire, Z.
544, a poem based on Seneca, was written in the 1680s, presumably forperformance at court. It is a type of miniature cantata on the theme of thetransitoriness of life. Central is the ground for tenor, Here let my lifewith as much silence slide, in which the descending figure in the basssymbolizes the inexorable passing of time. This sets up a poignant mood ofyearning with the violin and voice. The work prefigures the dramatic music ofthe 1690s.
The return of King Charles II had a huge impact on the theatre. Afteryears of disuse under the rule of Cromwell, the theatres were reopened andthere was a new explosion of creativity. Old plays were rewritten or adapted invarious ways, with the ever-present example of French opera and ballet. Theresult was an increase in the amount of music and dance in the plays, but,while the French and Italians had developed the form of opera, a continuousflow of dramatic music, composers in England at this time favoured masques,additional elements usually between acts of a play and not central to thedramatic theme. With Purcell's hand the music came to rival the spoken textresulting in what Roger North called a semi-opera. Dioclesian, The FairyQueen, King Arthur and The Indian Queen stand on their own, evenwithout the spoken text.
The music for The Tempest is a characteristic example oftheatre-music of the time. The first Restoration revival of Shakespeare's play TheTempest was in 1667 in an adaptation by John Dryden. This was revised in1674 by Thomas Shadwell with a version that seems to have been used until the1690s, when the adaptation presented here, and long attributed to Purcell,became popular. Nevertheless only Dorinda's song, Dear pretty youth ()is definitely by Purcell. For this reason this beautiful music has enjoyed lessfavour. Even in his later works Purcell never wrote Italianate da capo arias,as heard here, and this has added further doubt to its authenticity.
The version of The Tempest presented on this recording is from anearly eighteenth century copy (attributed to Purcell) in the library of theUniversity of Toronto. It differs from other versions in depicting thecharacters of the second act as Spirits and not Devils and in the omission ofthe chorus Nereids and Tritons from the fifth act. The Dance of theWinds (), Come unto these yellow sands () and Dance ofthe Spirits (), exist in two-part versions and so were reconstructed bythe conductor. We have added the Overture (Z. 770), which is a French-style overture to an unknown Purcell work and ended with the Chacony (Z.
730), a well-known example of Purcell's inventive imagination, a movement on aground-bass with some eighteen repetitions of the same bass-line in fourminutes of music.
The two trumpet works by Purcell included confirm the view that the mostinteresting trumpet writing in the seventeenth century was his. It has beensuggested that the Sonata in D, Z. 850, may be the overture to a lostPurcell ode, Light of the World.
Other matters worthy of note in this recording are the use of thewind-machine (), reconstructed after seventeenth-century models. As wasusual at the time, particularly in France, and following the practices of boththe Band of Twenty-Four Violins and the French court Vingt-Quatre Violons, oboes,recorders and bassoons are added to the score.