Christopher Hogwood

Purcell: Theatre Music

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Why did historical-performance recordings have such a bad name for so long among ordinary classical listeners? Perhaps it was because it was old instruments themselves that were revived first; studies of how to play them expressively came later on. Look no further than this box set for examples of performances that drain the verve from some very snappy Baroque music -- the large body of songs and instrumental incidental pieces Henry Purcell wrote for the theater over his brief compositional career. These performances were originally issued between 1974 and 1983, and the analog sound does not make the transition to compact disc especially well. These are mostly short pieces; some of the instrumental interludes last no more than a minute or two. They are quite miraculously defined by a few quick lyrical strokes, but Hogwood's monotone approach reduces them to the background music that they would have been in a lesser composer's hands.

Decca label personnel apparently believe that there are hardcore Hogwood fans out there with a burning desire to hear six discs' worth of his Purcell. Perhaps they're right. Hogwood's restrained yet tense approach was at its best in an accompanimental role, and these recordings did showcase a generation of English early music singers at their best. Emma Kirkby was rarely more graceful than in this repertory, and soprano Judith Nelson in particular has an unaffected English diction that's a pleasure to hear. A large group of singers of the era (16 in all) is represented, along with the Taverner Choir under the direction of Andrew Parrott.

In their day, the LP albums from which these performances might well have been the only available choices for Purcell's theatrical music. The intervening years, however, have brought an explosion of alternatives. Discs of instrumental pieces by the Parley of Instruments and of such works as the "semi-opera" King Arthur led by conductor John Eliot Gardiner make better places to start with a repertory that offers a wealth of joys.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Abdelazer, or, the Moor's Revenge, incidental music, Z. 570
1 03:21 Amazon
2 05:14 Amazon
3 04:08 Amazon
4 03:32 Amazon
Distressed Innocence, or, the Princess of Persia, incidental music, Z. 577
5 01:38 Amazon
6 04:34 Amazon
7 03:04 Amazon
The Married Beau, or, the Curious Impertinent, incidental music, Z. 603
8 02:21 Amazon
9 01:45 Amazon
10 03:31 Amazon
11 04:46 Amazon
12 02:20 Amazon
The Gordian Knot Unty'd, incidental music, Z. 597
13 02:31 Amazon
14 04:11 Amazon
15 03:54 Amazon
Sir Anthony Love, or, the Rambling Lady, incidental music, Z. 588
16 02:15 Amazon
17 04:08 Amazon
18 02:22 Amazon
19 03:11 Amazon
20 03:47 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Bonduca, or, The British Heroine, incidental music, Z. 574
1 02:36 Amazon
2 03:29 Amazon
3 02:56 Amazon
4 01:54 Amazon
5 02:58 Amazon
6 01:18 Amazon
7 02:45 Amazon
8 00:51 Amazon
9 02:10 Amazon
10 02:47 Amazon
11 02:48 Amazon
Circe, incidental music, Z. 575
12 02:35 Amazon
13 03:17 Amazon
14 03:26 Amazon
15 03:16 Amazon
16 02:49 Amazon
The Virtuous Wife, or, Good Luck at Last, incidental music, Z. 611
17 02:13 Amazon
18 04:48 Amazon
19 06:18 Amazon
The Old Bachelor, incidental music, Z. 607
20 02:23 Amazon
21 01:02 Amazon
22 02:24 Amazon
23 01:58 Amazon
24 02:26 Amazon
25 04:12 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 4

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
The Double Dealer, incidental music, Z. 592
1 02:49 Amazon
2 04:14 Amazon
3 02:28 Amazon
4 04:40 Amazon
The Richmond Heiress, or, A Woman Once in the Right, incidental music, Z. 608
5 08:38 Amazon
The Rival Sisters, or, the Violence of Love, incidental music, Z. 609
6 03:30 Amazon
7 02:20 Amazon
8 01:20 Amazon
9 01:36 Amazon
Henry II, King of England, incidental music, Z. 580
10 01:56 Amazon
Tyrannic Love, or, the Royal Martyr, incidental music, Z. 613
11 04:18 Amazon
12 04:31 Amazon
13 03:15 Amazon
Theodosius, or, the Force of Love, incidental music, Z.606
14 01:42 Amazon
15 02:51 Amazon
16 02:55 Amazon
17 02:44 Amazon
18 02:19 Amazon
19 02:19 Amazon
20 01:43 Amazon
21 02:35 Amazon
22 02:15 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 5

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
The Libertine, or, the Libertine Destroyed, incidental music, Z. 600
1 01:51 Amazon
2 01:39 Amazon
3 01:27 Amazon
4 04:38 Amazon
5 03:20 Amazon
The Massacre of Paris, incidental music, Z. 604
6 06:21 Amazon
Oedipus, incidental music, Z. 583
7 03:03 Amazon
8 03:41 Amazon
9 02:25 Amazon
10 02:50 Amazon
The History of King Richard II, or, The Sicilian Usurper, incidental music, Z. 581
11 03:01 Amazon
Sir Barnaby Whigg, or, No Wit Like a Woman's, incidental music, Z. 589
12 03:45 Amazon
Sophonisba, or Hannibal's Overthrow, incidental music, Z. 590
13 01:50 Amazon
The English Lawyer, incidental music, Z. 594
14 01:28 Amazon
A Fool's Preferment, or, The Three Dukes of Dunstable, incidental music, Z. 571
15 01:49 Amazon
16 02:43 Amazon
17 01:25 Amazon
18 02:11 Amazon
19 00:43 Amazon
The Indian Emperor, or, The Conquest of Mexico, incidental music, Z. 598
20 02:08 Amazon
The Knight of Malta, incidental music, Z. 599
21 01:31 Amazon
Why, my Daphne, why complaining? (A Dialogue between Thirsis and Daphne), song for soprano, bass & continuo, Z. 525
22 03:39 Amazon
The Wives' Excuse, or, Cuckolds Make Themselves, incidental music, Z. 612
23 02:28 Amazon
24 01:25 Amazon
25 02:34 Amazon
Cleomenes, the Spartan Hero, incidental music, Z. 576
26 03:01 Amazon
Regulus, or, the Faction of Carthage, incidental music, Z. 586
27 03:15 Amazon
The Marriage-Hater Match'd, incidental music, Z. 602
28 04:01 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 6

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Love Triumphant, or Nature Will Prevail, incidental music, Z. 582
1 01:44 Amazon
Rule a Wife and Have a Wife, incidental music, Z. 587
2 01:13 Amazon
The Female Virtuosos, incidental music, Z. 596
3 02:00 Amazon
Epsom Wells, incidental music, Z. 579
4 02:14 Amazon
The Maid's Last Prayer, or, Any Rather than Fail, incidental music, Z. 601
5 02:07 Amazon
6 04:13 Amazon
7 01:58 Amazon
Aureng-Zebe, or, the Great Mogul, incidental music, Z. 573
8 02:36 Amazon
The Canterbury Guests, or, A Bargain Broken, incidental music, Z. 591
9 03:21 Amazon
The Fatal Marriage, or, the Innocent Adultery, incidental music, Z. 595
10 02:16 Amazon
11 02:50 Amazon
Spanish Friar, or, the Double Discovery, incidental music, Z. 610
12 02:44 Amazon
Pausanias, the Betrayer of his Country, incidental music, Z. 585
13 03:01 Amazon
14 02:38 Amazon
The Mock Marriage, incidental music, Z. 605
15 04:46 Amazon
Oroonoko, incidental music, Z. 584
16 03:16 Amazon
17 03:35 Amazon
18 03:00 Amazon
19 03:07 Amazon
20 03:27 Amazon
21 04:14 Amazon
22 06:55 Amazon
23 04:47 Amazon
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