Corelli String Sonatas, Vol.3
The Purcell Quartet's much acclaimed Corelli trio sonata recording project is taking on some of the elements of a saga. Having delighted us with the freshness and warmth of their first CD (9/87), they dared to take liberties, experimenting interestingly with timbre, tempo, articulation and ornamentation in the second (6/91). In this, the third in the series, they take another tack, necessitated this time by a change of circumstance.
This CD serves in particular to announce a change of personnel in the Purcell Quartet. In the time between recording the trio sonatas of Opp. 3 and 4, the much-admired violinist Elizabeth Wallfisch was succeeded by the very able Catherine Weiss. The lively rapport between Wallfisch and the first violinist, Catherine Mackintosh, supremely evident in such Op. 3 movements as the D major and G major Graves, has always been one of the great strengths of the Purcell Quartet. She is Mackintosh's equal and at the same time a sort of alter-ego, sparring with her, contributing her own unique point of view to seemingly straight, imitative textures, reinterpreting Mackintosh's phrasing and, above all, forever delighting in the challenges served up by her colleague. Mackintosh would surely agree that Wallfisch always gave as good as she got and audiences loved it. So the G major Grave here, played with extraordinary serenity, the suspensions exquisitely poised, serves as an eloquent swansong for Wallfisch.
Change is often stimulating, and Catherine Weiss would appear to have stepped into the breach with the best of intentions. In the Op. 4 selections, she adapts to Mackintosh's every musical gesture, seemingly preferring for the moment to mirror—as if not yet aspiring to engage—her partner's formidable powers of invention. The quicksilver changes in the E major Preludio benefit from her vigilance, though a momentary over-indulgence in vibrato distracts somewhat from the beauty of the performance. Elsewhere, for whatever reason, some of the edge—if articulation may be described as such—is lost (in, for example, the C major Corrente) as on occasion (in the G minor Preludio) is the architectural interpretation so vital to Corelli's slow movements and a hallmark of Purcell Quartet performances. It is too early to say how the group will develop, but as a longstanding admirer of the ensemble, I eagerly look forward to following their progress in future recordings.'