Jordi Savall / Hespèrion XX

Henry Purcell: Fantasias for the Viols

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AllMusic Review by James Leonard

Intellectually concentrated, emotionally intense, technically difficult, and spiritually sublime, Henry Purcell's Fantasias for the Viols are exactly the sort of music that Jordi Savall was born to play and play superbly. And with his group Hesperion XX, they play them as superbly Savall does. The depth of tone of the instruments, the brilliance of the technique, the rigor of the interpretations, the soulfulness of the understanding, and the transcendence of compassion are nonpareil and the performances achieve a level unmatched by any other. And the truly astonishing thing is that every aspect of the work seems to be manifest in these performances: the listener may be absorbed by the contrapuntal lines, but he/she is never unaware of the emotions they evoke; the listener may be enthralled by the virtuosity of the playing, but he/she is never unaware of the spirituality of the music. Even the programming of the music, the succession of the 13 Fantasias and the interpolation of the two In Nomines, is the ideal order in which to apprehend the music. Astree's 1995 digital recording is so warm, so near, and so close that one can hear the players breathing.

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