Dorothee Mields / Wolfgang Katschner / Lautten Compagney

Purcell: Love Songs

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The songs and instrumental dance pieces on this German release come from a genre that has probably suffered historically from being saddled with the clunky name of semi-opera. The semi-opera was a spoken play with song-and-dance extravaganzas related to the masque genre. Henry Purcell was closely associated with the semi-opera, and there are various gems scattered around his output in the genre even though it's hard to bring an entire work to life. (It would be worth reconstructing one of these evening's entertainments in full.) Here, the Lautten Compagney Berlin and its director Wolfgang Katschner take some chances in an attempt to restore to the music what necessarily excerpted performances leave out. The music comes from four semi-operas, Timon of Athens, The History of Dioclesian, King Arthur, and The Fairy Queen, mixed slightly together but no more so than might have been done in a theater of the time. The recording is well worth hearing even if not to everybody's taste. Basically, Katschner juices up the music rhythmically, substituting plucked strings for recorders in some of the upper parts, calling forth some curious sounds from the plucked contrabass of Annette Rheinfurth and adding percussion. The results might not set a new standard for performing Purcell, but they work well here thanks to the presence of soprano Dorothee Mields, whose English diction renders the enclosed texts barely necessary for native speakers (they're also given in German, and the notes but not the song texts appear in French). Her approach (and it seems to be her contribution rather than part of the overall plan) is a dramatic style that takes plenty of time at the beginning of slow songs and generally seizes the stage effectively. The dance mood of the instrumental pieces emerges clearly, and the recording is evocative enough to make you mostly forget the fact that the music has been tampered with a little bit. The sound, from Berlin's Pfingskirche, is clear but not really in keeping with the theatrical atmosphere.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Timon of Athens
1
4:00
The History of Dioclesian
2
1:05
3
3:37 Amazon
King Arthur
4
3:44 Amazon
5
0:50
6
2:45 Amazon
Pausanius, the beytrayer of his Country
7
3:08 Amazon
Timon of Athens
8
3:19
9
1:50
10
1:34
11
1:29
12
1:29
The History of Dioclesian
13
2:16
The Fairy Queen
14
3:59
15
2:51
16
1:54
The History of Dioclesian
17
3:21
The Fairy Queen
18
4:36 Amazon
The History of Dioclesian
19
1:37
20
2:37
The Fairy Queen
21
6:18 Amazon
22
2:57
Timon of Athens
23
1:49
The History of Dioclesian
24
1:39
King Arthur
25
1:13
The History of Dioclesian
26
2:11
The Mock Marriage
27
1:28 Amazon
The Fairy Queen
28
2:52
29
3:33
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