Following a long and politicized creative process that kept it in limbo for 6 years, Henry Purcell’s semi-opera King Arthur, or, The British Worthy, set to a libretto by John Dryden, was premiered in 1691 and remained a popular theater piece throughout the next century. Curiously, this work was to be adapted many times, due to the lack of an autograph score or detailed information about early performances, so later productions have varied in the ordering of numbers and their instrumentation. Adding to the confusion is the story itself, part drama, part royal pageant, which has little to do with the Arthurian legends of Camelot, but tells instead of battles between the Saxons and the Britons, and the intervention of mythological deities and other supernatural beings. Even so, despite the many versions and the ornate plot, Purcell's infectious music survives to keep King Arthur in the repertoire of the 21st century, and the Gabrieli Consort & Players have made it thrive for over two decades. For this 2019 recording, the performing version by musical director Paul McCreesh and scholar Christopher Suckling is used, which tightens the structure and employs appropriate arrangements for the period. Featured in this concert recording are sopranos Anna Dennis, Mhairi Lawson, Rowan Pierce, and Carolyn Sampson, high tenor Jeremy Budd, tenor James Way, baritone Roderick Williams, and bass-baritone Ashley Riches, all of whom have had distinguished individual careers and long experience with the Gabrieli Consort. Recorded in January 2019 at St. Silas the Martyr Church in Kentish Town, the sound is remarkably clear and intimate for the resonant acoustics of the space.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2
Act V: New Song Fame & Chorus for Britannia & St George: Sound Heroes, your brazen trumpets sound! / Let all rehearse (from Dioclesian)