Sunday 1 November 2015

I cannot imagine anyone failing to delight in The King’s Consort’s captivating performances of Purcell’s Twelve Sonatas of Three Parts released this month on Vivat

Following their acclaimed recording of Purcell’s Ten Sonatas in Four Parts that I reviewed in June 2014 The King’s Consort went to St. John’s Church, Loughton, Essex UK in February this year to record the Twelve Sonatas of Three Parts.

This new release from Vivat  is due out on the 13th November 2015 and features their director Robert King  at the chamber organ and harpsichord with Cecilia Bernardini  and Huw Daniel (violins), Reiko Ichise (bass viol) and Lynda Sayce (theorbo)


Whilst Henry Purcell’s (1659-1695) Ten Sonatas in Four Parts were published posthumously, the Twelve Sonatas of Three Parts were published by the 24 year old composer himself with an announcement in the London Gazette on the 28th May 1683 stating that they were ‘compleatly finished’ and would be available for delivery to subscribers from his own house in St. Anne’s Lane near to Westminster Abbey.

Indeed, Vivat prints a facsimile in the CD booklet of the front of the published edition that reads ‘SONNATA’S  OF III PARTS: TWO VIOLLONS And BASSE: To the Organ or Harpsecord. Composed by HENRY PURCELL, Composer in Ordinary to his most Sacred Majesty and Organist of his Chappell Royall.’

Click here to see a video about this recording:

The King’s Consort bring a terrific sonority to the slowly unfolding [Grave] of Purcell’s Sonata 1 in G minor, Z790 after which they positively leap into the sprightly Vivace bringing beautifully rich textures, underpinned by bass viol and organ. The two violins weave some fine lines over the other instrumentalists before the gentle concluding Adagio where one can hear the theorbo gently sounding through the lovely texture. They run straight into the Presto with a terrific, flexible forward propulsion before a beautifully shaped, elegant Largo.  

These players bring a light texture to the gently sprung [Andante] of the Sonata 2 in B flat major, Z791 weaving some terrific lines before the Largo which still retains a bright and buoyant feel. As they move quickly into a fleet Presto, Purcell gives us some terrific descending phrases which these players combine brilliantly.  The King’s Consort draw some lovely long phrases in the Adagio before picking up nicely for the Vivace with these players adding a lovely subtle rubato. The Allegro skips along with a lovely rhythm perfectly caught here with lovely long drawn phrases before leading to the final [Grave].

A descending theme opens the beautiful [Grave] of the Sonata 3 in D minor, Z792 with some exquisite little decorations. There are such finely turned phrases in the Adagio before a lithe buoyant Canzona and some more beautifully drawn phrases in the concluding Adagio. They bring a gentle rhythmic lift to the Poco Largo, such a light touch, before running quickly into a fast flowing Allegro with some more extremely fine sonorities, lovely phrasing and a great bite to their playing at the end.

In the Sonata 4 in F major, Z793 they bring a rather heartfelt [Largo]. This is another fine example of how Robert King and his players find just the right tempo particularly where none has been marked by the composer (hence the parentheses on certain markings). The Canzona introduces a lively tempo with some extremely fine, lithe playing full of lovely little short phrases. Absolutely terrific. A flowing Poco Largo follows with beautifully light textures allowing the harpsichord and theorbo to sound through. The Allegro moves at quite a pace with such accurate and well phrased playing before slowing into a beautiful flowing [Largo] overlaid with more fine descending phrases.

The lines and phrases of the fast flowing [Largo] are finely overlaid in the opening of the Sonata 5 in A minor, Z794 before a mournful, exquisitely shaped Adagio that is allowed to reveal some absolutely wonderful details. There is a light well-sprung Largo followed by lovely sonorities and harmonies in the Grave before suddenly rising in the lively Canzona, beautifully done and leading to a lovely Adagio.

The opening [Grave] of the Sonata 6 in C major, Z795 brings some beautifully rich textures with lovely sonorities. As this fine melody slowly flows ahead, these instrumentalists weave a lovely sound with the organ providing a fine lower line, rising through some lovely transparent textures; a particularly fine movement in their hands. The Canzona leads off, full of joy and life as it skips ahead, these players finding a lovely buoyant rhythm and weaving some fine lines, moving through the descending phrases of the Largo to the beautifully done fast moving Allegro.

The [Grave] reveals another fine choice of tempo as the Sonata 7 in E minor, Z796 opens with a lovely weaving of musical lines as the music slowly moves forward leading into a most brilliantly done lively Canzona that moves off with a light gentle energy. The following Largo brings a lovely rhythm as it moves forward at a fairly lively pace before the lovely textures of the Grave, a sparkling Vivace and the lovely Adagio.

Light textures abound again in the [Largo] of the Sonata 8 in G major, Z797 the instrumentalists weaving some fine textures into a Poco Largo that has a gentle lilt, a lively rhythmic lift before the tempo subtly increases in the Allegro. There is a slow Grave that slowly increases in strength before leading into a fast and buoyant Vivace, revealing some wonderful passages.

There is lovely phrasing in the opening [Grave] of Sonata 9 in C minor, Z798 before a lovely lightness is brought to the Largo with beautifully pointed rhythms. A lightly sprung Canzona follows before these players move into the lovely, typically Purcellian Adagio. The Allegro is full of rhythmic verve, these fine musicians bringing an instinctive flow of melody.

The first violin leads, then joined by the second as the distinctive rhythmic theme of the [Allegro] of Sonata 10 in A major, Z799 is shared around all the players before arriving at a beautifully shaped Largo. The Grave has a rather stately feel before the lively light textured Presto takes off with some impressive fast and accurate playing from these musicians as they quickly weave the musical lines.

The opening of Sonata 11 in F minor, Z800 brings another fine [Grave] with each individual instrument heard adding to the texture. A buoyant Canzona finds these players bringing such fine light, short phrases creating a lovely texture. A quite exquisite Adagio follows with some lovely little phrases from the strings. The bright and buoyant Largo brings gorgeous harmonies and sonorities.

From the glorious texture of the opening Adagio through the fast moving finely textured Canzona, the flowing Poco Largo, a lovely sonorous Grave, a brilliantly overlaid Presto, a rhythmic lively beautifully sprung Allegro to the short concluding Adagio,  the Sonata 12 in D major, Z801 is an absolute delight.  

The King’s Consort breathes life into these remarkably fine sonatas. I cannot imagine anyone failing to delight in these captivating performances.

They receive a first rate recording and there are excellent notes from Robert King. Indeed the quality of the digipack and fold out booklet are of the highest standard we have now come to expect from Vivat. 

The King’s Consort’s two sets of Purcell sonatas must surely be the finest in the catalogue.

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