L'Arpeggiata / Christina Pluhar / Philippe Jaroussky

Music for a While: Improvisations on Purcell

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This is an entirely novel treatment of Henry Purcell's music that may appeal greatly to experimentally minded listeners, but those mulling the purchase should be perfectly clear about what they're getting into. "Improvisations on Henry Purcell" is not quite the right subtitle. There are elements of improvisation, it's true, but really these are arrangements of famous Purcell songs and arias, most of them by L'Arpeggiata leader Christina Pluhar. A few of the pieces are performed straight, but most of them are very far from the conventional Purcell sound world, drawing on such diverse genres as rock (the opening 'Twas within a furlong and Strike the viol, both complete with electric guitar), world music, other Baroque styles, various styles of jazz, and even lounge music, applied to the sublime When I am laid in earth, from Dido and Aeneas. Plainly there is a subset of listeners who will be absolutely driven crazy by this release, but just as plainly it gets major points for utter originality. Its strength lies in the fact that it is not simply a jazz or rock version of Purcell but a wholesale rethinking of an antique repertoire for a stylistically diverse modern musical world. Pluhar commands the services of an all-star trio of countertenors including Dominique Visse, Philippe Jaroussky, and Vincenzo Capezzuto, along with soprano Raquel Andueza; the singers generally sound like they're having a great deal of fun, and listeners should check the album out just to hear some hitherto unknown possibilities of the countertenor voice (try Visse's turn in Man is for the woman made). Despite all the craziness, Purcell's tunes are left generally intact, and this is another of the album's strengths. Things go seriously astray only with the bonus track, an inexplicable version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah by Capezzuto, but those hooked on the album's ideas by then will be inclined to accept it as the kind of excess that comes with original projects. The future of early music? Probably not, but who knows?

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 2:54
2 5:54
3 3:57
4 6:06
Hail! bright Cecilia
5 4:33
Who can from joy refrain?
6 4:40
7 5:23 Amazon
8 5:03
Hail Bright Cecilia!
9 3:41
Welcome to All the Pleasures
10 4:47
11 4:10
12 2:48
13 4:40
14 1:17
15 7:18
16 2:56
17 6:04 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick