JOHN BLOW: An Ode on the Death of Mr. Henry Purcell; PURCELL: Here Let my Life; But ah, I See Eusebia Drown’d in Tears; Symphony for the Flutes; Strike the Viol; Her Charming Strains; Chaconne; A Song in the Prophetess; Symphony for the Flutes; No, no Resistance is but Vain; I loved Fair Celia; Sweetness of Nature – Carlos Mena, counter tenor/ Damien Guillon, counter tenor/ Ricercar Consort/ Philippe Pierlot, conductor & bass viol – Mirare 109, 58:00 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
Counter tenors don’t do a lot for me—the medium always sounds so contrived, undernourished, and artificial, a poor man’s attempt (or a scared man’s attempt) at castrato imitation, lacking the power of that species and sounding too fluffy and weak. So the idea of two counter tenors almost sent me into apoplexy when I saw this release. Here we are given a number of duets and solo instrumental pieces by the indomitable Henry Purcell, along with Mr. John Blow’s best ever work, his ode on the death of his good friend and pupil, the same Mr. Purcell.
On the whole this release is exemplary; the Ricercar Consort is spot on in its interpretations of the Purcell idiom, always sprightly and technically flawless, but at the same time quite relaxed and free-flowing when the moment calls for it. Maybe it’s the intimate setting with the counter tenors, but I do not detect the same sort of struggling projection issues that I normally hear, and both voices are engaging and quite harmonious to the ear, a nice change.
Sound is colorful, vivid, and nicely placed among the instruments, with an excellent balance and well-nigh perfectly judged sense of proportion. These songs are among Purcell’s best, and the Blow has never been recorded better, so this gets an easy recommendation—and no one is more surprised than me.
— Steven Ritter