Top 10 Purcell recordings

Gramophone Tue 19th January 2016

The inventiveness, skill and emotional power of so much of Purcell's music always rewards re-interpretation and listening. Here's the Gramophone guide to 10 of the best Purcell recordings

Dido and Aeneas

Susan Graham, Ian Bostridge, Camilla Tilling, Felicity Palmer, David Daniels; Le Concert d-Astrée / Emmanuelle Haïm

(Erato)

'Graham’s ‘When I am laid in earth’ is masterfully gauged and there is no sentimental and funereal pacing in ‘With drooping wings’ but a palpable sense of shock at a demise so tragic and fateful...' Read the review

The Fairy Queen

Ann Murray, Lorna Anderson, Gillian Fisher, Michael Chance, John Mark Ainsley, Ian Partridge, Richard Suart, Michael George; The Sixteen; The Symphony of Harmony and Invention / Harry Christophers

(Coro)

'Michael George's all-enveloping ''Hush no more'' and a stunningly caught final chorus. A performance like this – as indeed of the birthday ode in Act 4, similarly set in motion by Fisher's ''Now the night'' – shows dimensions of Purcell's genius that are all too rarely heard on disc...' Read the review

The Complete Fantazias

Fretwork

(Harmonia Mundi)

'If you already own their 1995 version, make room on your shelf for another. Purcell’s remarkable Fantazias – out of sync with their time, never widely circulated or acknowledged in his day, yet works of true genius – are definitely worth revisiting...' Read the review

Arise, My Muse

Iestyn Davies, Richard Egarr, Tabea Debus, Pamela Thorby, Bojan Čičić, Stephen Pedder; Julia Kuhn, Mark Levy, William Carter

(Wigmore Hall Live)

'This is a disc that reminds us why live recital programmes are such a valuable part of recorded repertoire. Rather than the monochrome focus on the solo artist permitted by the artifice of the studio, we get a fully rounded musical experience that feels more satisfying both for performers and listeners...' Read the review

King Arthur

Véronique Gens, Sandrine Piau, Mark Padmore; Les Arts Florissants / William Christie

(Erato)

'Christie makes the strongest case for this music to date, an account which will refresh those who need an injection to persuade them that they have not yet had their fill of Purcell for one year. A fine achievement...' Read the review

Sound the Trumpet

Alison Balsom; The English Concert / Trevor Pinnock

(Warner Classics)

'This is rattling good music, and so easily does the trumpet fit into it that often it is hard to recall what the original scorings were anyway. Balsom, too, sounds utterly at home...' Read the review

Victorious Love 

Carolyn Sampson, Anne-Marie Lasla, Laurence Cummings, Elizabeth Kenny

(BIS)

'It is immediately obvious from the first few songs that this disc is truly special. Carolyn Sampson's singing is deliciously enjoyable for its sweet tuning, flawless intonation, impeccable stylishness, shapely phrasing of melodic lines and textual awareness...' Read the review

Keyboard Suites and Grounds

Richard Egarr

(Harmonia Mundi)

'One of Egarr’s greatest achievements is to challenge the homespun perception of this repertoire and present it as great keyboard music. The C major Suite is a wonderful demonstration of this, as is the gamey tuning of the D major work with its burly final hornpipe...' Read the review

Twelve Sonatas in Three Parts

Retrospect Trio

(Linn)

'The Retrospect Trio achieves rich sonorities when Purcell springs extraordinary harmonic surprises, such as the dizzying chromatic sequence in the Adagio of No 3 and melancholic C minor passages throughout No 9. These delightful endeavours should win plenty of friends...' Read the review

Music for a While

Maarten Koningsberger, Fred Jacobs

(Quintone)

'From the lightness and simplicity of the earliest song represented here, 1678’s “I resolve against cringing and whining”, to the declamatory, richly ornamented first section of “Celia has a thousand charms” from the incidental music to Robert Gould’s The Rival Sisters, or The Violence of Love (1695), Koningsberger’s innate musicality and subtle intelligence are evident in every phrase...' Read the review

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