Peter Kooij / Joanna Klisowska

Purcell: Close Thine Eyes

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This Italian release features an international cast of singers, not a one of them English, in an unusual look at the music of Henry Purcell, who, despite his early death, has left a great deal of music that remains to be explored. Under examination here is a repertory that annotator Dinko Fabris characterizes with the barely extant word "intimist": it is household music, in which Fabris and the performers rightly emphasize the unusual quality of not having a strong barrier between sacred and secular. Thus you get genuine songs by Purcell, some of which might have had theatrical origins, but which would have been used by amateur performers in a British noble home, along with sacred songs accompanied by organ continuo, little keyboard and lute pieces, and three works by other composers. This last group may be unusual in a recording titled merely Purcell, but it makes sense in the overall context. The result is a quiet Purcell program that has many small pleasures. What you'll think of it may depend largely on your reaction to the voice of Polish-born Joanna Klisowska: she has one of those modern early music voices that affects a countertenor sound and slips into vibrato, as it were, only grudgingly and at the last minute. Bass Peter Kooij is more conventional, and you might try sampling one of his songs, such as Music for a While (track 12), to get the flavor of the whole. There's a lot of music here that even Purcell enthusiasts will not have heard, and that in itself is the chief recommendation for this release.

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