Classic CD: The perfect summertime tonic

By William Dart

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Purcell, Twelve Sonatas of Three Parts.
Purcell, Twelve Sonatas of Three Parts.
Bach, Violin Concertos.
Bach, Violin Concertos.

It would be difficult to imagine a more appropriate cover for The King's Consort new Purcell CD - a cluster of brilliant diamonds photographed by the group's theorbo player, Lynda Sayce.

This gem of a recording, the latest in the veritable diadem of Vivat's catalogue, offers the dozen two-movement sonatas published by Purcell's widow after his tragic death in 1695, at 36.

The ensemble of two violins, bass viol and theorbo, with Robert King on chamber organ and harpsichord, is exemplary, doing full justice to one of the most expressive voices of the Baroque.

There is infectious vitality here, in performance and the scores themselves. The later English composer Gustav Holst wrote of the joy of moving to this dance-like music, whether in the ballroom, on stage or in the garden. Best make sure your lounge is suitably uncluttered just in case you too feel the urge to follow suit.

The King's Company comes up with dashing minuets, the friskiest of dotted rhythms, bold harmonic ploys and soulful slow movements that echo the poignancy of Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas, making the disc a first-class 77-minute musical adventure.

Last year, conductor Eckehard Stier, reflecting on his years with Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, selected Alina Ibragimova as his most memorable soloist, playing Shostakovich in 2011.

The Russian violinist offers Bach on her latest Hyperion CD, giving us five concertos alongside top-notch Baroque band, Arcangelo, under Jonathan Cohen.

The second track, an A minor Adagio, is an irresistible starting-point, with Ibragimova's subtly shaded melody woven through rich orchestral chords and the flutter of lute. Yet, one track on, the Finale of the same piece is a joyous romp in Gigue time, managing an almost percussive propulsion without a drum in sight.

While the A minor and E major concertos are standard repertoire, the remaining three have been successfully adapted from keyboard concertos.

In one Allegro ma non tanto, Ibragimova's playing has such intimacy of detail that it is like listening to the musical equivalent of cloisonne, while a G minor Adagio is a right heart-stopper, with violin floating effortlessly over a grove of plucked traceries.

Purcell, Twelve Sonatas of Three Parts (Vivat, through Southbound)

Bach, Violin Concertos (Hyperion, through Ode Records)

Verdict: Top-line Baroque releases provide the perfect summertime tonic.

- Weekend magazine

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