PURCELL The Tempest
There is so much pleasure to be had from Purcell’s semi-operas that it is easy to wish we had more of them. Much of The Tempest is thought to have been written by other hands, but that is no reason for refusing to give it shelf-room. The score is cast in the same mould as Purcell’s fully accredited dramatic works and offers a similar range of music. The Aradia Baroque Ensemble have taken as their source an 18th-century copy held by the University of Toronto, which involves a few minor changes to the accepted score. The Overture, Z770, remains at the beginning, but the chorus ‘The Nereids and Tritons’ is omitted from Act 5 and the Chaconne, Z730, has been placed at the end.
This Canadian early music group have received good reviews for their previous discs of Caldara (3/97) and Lully (10/98) on Naxos, and their Purcell is just as appealing. Director Kevin Mallon does not fuss over shaping the slower music, and the fast numbers go with plenty of zest. The ensemble includes oboes, recorders and bassoons, quite sparingly used, and bells for the setting of Ariel’s ‘Full fathom five’ (naughtily ringing in the rests between the words ‘Ding dong bell’). The line-up of solo singers has no weak links and a few real strengths. Brett Polegato may lack authority in the role of Neptune, but sings with a fine, warm, well-rounded tone. Meredith Hall brings a winning sensitivity to the long solo ‘Halcyon days’ and finds an ideal soprano partner in the young Gillian Keith. Purcell’s setting of ‘If ever I more riches did desire’ and his Trumpet Sonata No 2 are substantial makeweights. The recording acoustic is more church than theatre, but lively enough. Recommended.'