HENRY PURCELL: The Fairy Queen; The Prophetess – Orchestral Suites – Le Concert des Nations/Jordi Savall – AliaVox Heritage

by | Aug 3, 2009 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

HENRY PURCELL: The Fairy Queen; The Prophetess – Orchestral Suites – Le Concert des Nations/Jordi Savall – AliaVox Heritage multichannel SACD AVSA 9866, 62:53 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

Jordi Savall has been reissuing on his AliaVox label some of the nearly 70 albums which he, his wife Montserrat Figueras, and their various ensembles made for the Astree label between 1977 and 1996.  In doing so these important recordings of the early music renaissance are being rechanneled and remastered from mostly two-channel originals and released as multichannel SACDs, with the usual extensive notes and gorgeous packaging which makes AliaVox probably the most beautifully-designed classical CDs available.  The careful remastering process seems to be similar to that used by Opus 3 and some other labels in the multichannel reissues of some of their classic two-channel masters.  The surround sonics are fine, but with all of these which were not discrete multichannel to begin with I find I have to raise the level on the surrounds a bit.

The English at the time of Purcell were late-comers to opera, so he instead contributed incidental music to stage works, and music for semi-operas, which are what is presented on this SACD. The Prophetess of 1690 had an enhanced role of music within the plot of the play, and there was an emphasis on dance music.  We hear a 14-minute suite from Purcell’s music.  The Fairy Queen is a semi-opera based closely on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer-Night’s Dream.  The 49-minute suite includes music from all five acts of the stage presentation. The orchestration is quite lavish for the period, with trumpets, kettle-drums and other touches. Purcell liked to create musical backgrounds involved in things supernatural, and Shakespeare’s plot offered him plenty of opportunities. It’s interesting to hear his musical handling of elements such as the fairies and furies vs. the familiar Mendelssohn treatments.

The original recordings were made in a highly ornate and reverberant hall in Barcelona, and the note booklet is illustrated with many color reproductions by Arthur Rackham for A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

 – John Sunier

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