Sweeter Than Roses = 18 songs by HENRY PURCELL; BENJAMIN BRITTEN: Winter Words, op. 52 – Ian Partridge, tenor. George Malcolm, harpsichord (Purcell). Jennifer Partridge, piano (Britten) – Resonance

by | Dec 27, 2006 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

Sweeter Than Roses = 18 songs by HENRY PURCELL;  BENJAMIN BRITTEN: Winter Words, op. 52 – Ian Partridge, tenor. George Malcolm, harpsichord (Purcell). Jennifer Partridge, piano (Britten) – Resonance CD RSN 3062, 72:08 **** [Distr. by Koch] :

Exquisitely beautiful recordings from the last days of the analog era, this recital features music by two of England’s greatest song writers.

The selection of Purcell songs include some of his most popular, the most famous of which is “I attempt from Love’s sickness to fly,” written in the last year of Purcell’s life, and show the composer’s emotional range as well as his rare ability to turn out of a catchy ditty. It is very much the creator of Dido and Aeneas at the height of his powers, and Partridge’s selections comes from many sources: One is an independent song, some come from incidental music to plays, other from music plays akin to operas, one from a Birthday Ode, and the rest are hymns.

Britten’s Winter Words cycle, completed in 1953 and one of his few in English, is set to words by Thomas Hardy, stoic and gnarled like the English landscapes he wrote so passionately about. Each song takes as its point of departure a description of nature. The result is an often ghostly succession of attempts to catch the sounds of the wind, the countryside, the living of life and the leaving of it. Partridge’s performance is more sober, less eccentric than others, and deeply rewarding.

Ian Partridge had a beautiful voice with a touch of dark richness at its bottom end and a serious cast throughout its range that was particularly moving in sad or contemplative music without losing an ability to be effectively light, lyrical and even humorous at times. It is a combination of qualities that harkens back to the greatness of Alfred Eller as much as it does forward to the great young tenors who currently are drawn to this repertoire.

Produced by John Boyden and engineered by Tony Faulkner, two of the great legends of the English recording industry, the sound is forthright in its beauty and honesty, capturing Partridge’s with vivid intensity, and particularly magnificent with Jennifer Partridge’s piano. It may be a bit dry but it is riveting from first to last.

– Laurence Vittes

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