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Purcell Harmonia Sacra

Purcell: Lord, what is man?; How have I stray'd, my God; Thou wakeful shepherd (A Morning Hymn); Let the night perish (Job's Curse)
Suite No. 2 in G minor; With sick and famish'd eyes; We sing to him whose wisdom form'd the ear; Great God and just;
Tell me, some pitying angel (The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation);
My op'ning eyes are purg'd; The Night is come
Chaconne from 'Timon of Athens'; My song shall be alway of the loving kindness of the Lord; How long, great God;
Simpson: Prelude and division on a ground in E minor
Purcell: The earth trembled; In the black, dismal dungeon of despair Z190; Now that the sun hath veiled its light (An Evening Hymn)

Les Talens Lyriques/Elizabeth Kenny theorbo; Laurence Dreyfus viola da gamba/Christophe Rousset/conductor, harpsichord, organ
Sandrine Piau/soprano

Wigmore Hall 4 December 2010

Despite Christophe Rousset varying his keyboard accompaniments, swivelling around 90° from harpsichord to chamber organ between sections of each piece (an inauthentic sharing practice?) this programme failed to avoid monotony and Sandrine Piau, as the only singer - albeit a good one - failed to keep it all alive. This small scale sacred music is better taken in small hearings than in a whole concert; instrumental interludes did not provide variety enough.

Is this strange programme destined to become a CD, to join the very many of Les Talens Lyriques' which were on sale at the hall?

Maybe the whole event, which attracted a good audience, was planned for our difficult financial times... Whatever, back home I got down from the shelf Robert King's boxed set of Purcell's sacred music [Hyperion CDS44144/51] to refresh my memory; - - In connection with the Purcell Tercentenary in 1995, Robert King with his fortuitously eponymous musicians has also recorded the complete sacred Anthems & Services (CDA66585 to CDA66716) and this has, if it is possible, proved even more revelatory. - - .`

Susan Gritton gave a better, purer account of Lord, what is man? than had Sandrine Piau; most of the high solos are shared amongst trebles from leading choirs, which make a powerful effect together with the many great solo singers of the '90s, most of them still active. The box encompasses great variety and remains a strong recommendation.

Peter Grahame Woolf

PS These reviews from The Times (no longer on line without subscription) and from the Guardian ("penitential laments...") embolden me to confess that we left at the interval... And to wonder how many in the audience drifted away during the second half, and whether the good ticket sales had been influenced by the cover image on the month's brochure??

: - - Penitential lament followed penitential lament, acres of declamation only briefly relieved by passages in flowing rhythm – and even Purcell's fabulous harmonic twists began to seem inevitable - - the pleasures of this evening were ascetic indeed.