This release from veteran English historical-instrument group the
Parley of Instruments promises music "from Purcell to Handel," which is true enough, but the emphasis is on the intervening period, between Purcell's death in 1695 and Handel's arrival in England in 1710, not on those two composers themselves. They are represented by fairly obscure works, the Italian-style soprano cantata Tell me, some pitying angel, Z. 196, in Purcell's case and the possibly spurious cantata Venus and Adonis, HWV 85, which features original recitatives from ensemble leader Peter Holman. The news here resides not in those works but in those by the other composers who populated the London scene. They were English, French, Italian, and German, all making their way to the great city whose population had more than doubled over the last century. Not only did imported French dance suites and Italian trio sonatas gain favor, but the foreigners also tried to emulate what they heard as English styles. Thus the Trio Sonata in G minor of Giovanni Battista Draghi (tracks 2-6), which you might expect to be a pure essay in the Corellian style, with endless chains of suspensions, turns out to be a somber work in the vein of English consort music, with a good deal of chromatic shading that was unknown to the Italians. The program alternates vocal and instrumental works, offering something closer to a typical London evening's music than the usual anthology-like programming, and a good deal of it is enjoyable if not profoud: hear the lovely pastoral aria Creep softly, purling streams of Raphael Courteville (track 8) or the oddly titled "Smallcoal" trio sonata of Johann Christoph Pepusch, so named because it was written for a music room maintained by a coal seller. That work, like much of the other music here, receives its premiere recording, and any Handel enthusiast who wants to hear something of the world of sound that greeted Handel on his arrival in London might make the minimal investment in this recording. Booklet notes and texts are in English, French, and German, and the recording venue is the absolutely ideal Potton Hall in Suffolk.