Purcell - Music for a While
Versatile Dutch baritone Maarten Koningsberger and refined lutenist Fred Jacobs here join in the Henry Purcell 350th birthday celebrations with a beautiful recital of solo songs drawn from across the English Orpheus’s all-too-brief career.
Koningsberger has already distinguished himself in genres as diverse as opera, oratorio, consort song, the Baroque cantata, mélodie and Lieder, the latter including a recording of Die schöne Müllerin with guitar accompaniment – from which this disc is descended in terms of Koningsberger’s ability to adapt volume and tone to the requirements of a plucked-string instrument without sacrificing expressive power.
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. Among the better-known songs, one has only to listen to the delicate vocal colourings in “Music for a while”, the skilfully realised connotations of melancholy and vanitas in “If music be the food of love” and the semantically apposite execution of the ornamentation in “I attempt from love’s sickness to fly” to realise the extent of Koningsberger’s interpretative gifts.
Moreover, Koningsberger’s English pronunciation is crystal-clear and virtually accentless. Add to all the aforementioned Jacobs’s utterly sympathetic theorbo accompaniments and you have one of the best Purcell recitals to have hit the shelves in years. Pity about distinctly unflattering cover images of the artists.