Purcell Quartet

Buxtehude: VII Suonate, Op. 1

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Although written for the configuration of two violins and continuo, Dietrich Buxtehude's Seven Sonatas, Op. 1, are not trio sonatas in the usual sense. They refer back to the older type of Italian ensemble sonata, with contrasting short sections following in rapid succession rather than the three- or four-movement sonata or dance suite types. Buxtehude came at the end of this tradition, which by 1694, when these sonatas were first published, was beginning to give way to newer Italian types in points further south. He treated the form in the free, rather fantastic style that was his trademark, emphasizing sudden shifts and using the full range of formal devices available to him; the music may, for example, break into an unexpected fugue. The Purcell Quartet, a veteran British historical performance ensemble, has a consistently rich, bright sound that has been deployed to excellent effect in accompanying some of Buxtehude's underrated vocal music. This collection might appeal to those who have enjoyed their work with soprano Emma Kirkby, but check out some of their competition among recordings of these sonatas; they tend to sound as though they are playing the melodically lush and slightly formal music of their namesake rather than that of Buxtehude, whose irregular, craggy quality does not fully come across in these rather homogeneous performances. Sample the sixth sonata (track 6), which packs no fewer than 13 sections into its seven-odd minutes, to see whether the glittering sounds appeal to you or whether you would sacrifice surface sheen for a greater sense of drama. Chandos engineers, working in a Suffolk church (the sonatas might indeed have had liturgical uses), do their usual bang-up job. Informative notes are in English, German, and French.

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