Academy of Ancient Music / Christopher Hogwood / Sylvia McNair

The Echoing Air

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AllMusic Review by

Henry Purcell's music receives a sumptuous presentation on Sylvia McNair's 1994 CD The Echoing Air. Arranged in four parts following the scheme of Baroque entertainment, the concert features both vocal and instrumental pieces. Opening with a vibrant performance of the Staircase Overture, an early piece full of youthful vitality, the program is drawn from a variety of stage works and incidental music, most of which were randomly compiled in Orpheus Britannicus shortly after the composer's death. McNair's pleasant, unaffected voice is perfectly suited to Purcell's pristine lines, and her rhythmic articulations and ornaments are immaculate. Especially noteworthy are her accuracy and sensitivity in bringing off poignant cross relations, a striking feature in many of Purcell's laments. But all the songs benefit from her pure tone and tasteful phrasing. Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music perform on period instruments, and their sound is clear and subtly shaded to set the appropriate mood for each number. Along with Laurence Dreyfus on cello, Hogwood provides an understated continuo on harpsichord and organ, though Paul O'Dette also plays accompaniment on the archlute. Recorded at St. John's, Smith Square, London, the building's live acoustic lends resonance to McNair's clear, ringing tones and the strings' silvery timbre.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
2:40
2
3:16
Work(s)
3
1:08
The Libertine, or, the Libertine Destroyed, incidental music, Z. 600
4
2:52
5
1:24
6
7:03
Work(s)
7
1:48
8
0:38
Bonduca, or, The British Heroine, incidental music, Z. 574
9
2:49
10
4:15
The Fairy Queen, semi-opera, Z. 629
11
2:24
12
0:43
Pausanias, the Betrayer of his Country, incidental music, Z. 585
13
3:05
King Arthur, or, The British Worthy, semi-opera, Z. 628
14
1:59
15
3:00
16
2:19
The Indian Queen, semi-opera, Z. 630
17
1:35
18
1:08
Oedipus, incidental music, Z. 583
19
3:13
20
3:39
Work(s)
21
1:35
The Fairy Queen, semi-opera, Z. 629
22
5:55
Chacony, for 4 strings in G minor, Z. 730
23
4:33
blue highlight denotes track pick