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Purcell: King Arthur

Henry Purcell , William Christie , Les Arts Florissants , Sandrine Piau , Véronique Gens , et al. Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Performer: Sandrine Piau, Véronique Gens, Claron McFadden, Iain Paton, Mark Padmore, et al.
  • Orchestra: Les Arts Florissants
  • Conductor: William Christie
  • Composer: Henry Purcell
  • Audio CD (1 May 1995)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Erato
  • ASIN: B000005EEH
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 284,587 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. King Arthur (41 tracks on 2 CD's) - Henry Purcell

Product Description

Amazon.co.uk

This studio recording of King Arthur is based on a stage production, and its crackling theatricality is wonderfully evident at every turn. It is an "authentic" performance, but William Christie has deftly changed orchestrations, added tambourines and other percussion, occasionally deepened the bass sound, and included a host of other "inauthentic" effects--and the result is a recording brimming with life. The "Cold Scene", to take one example, is a great piece of musical painting. The "Chorus of Cold People" features a much faster set of chattering teeth than John Eliot Gardiner's decidedly thawed-out version (on Erato), and involves shouts of frost-bitten pain from the choir. A wind machine also adds a deliciously cheesy touch. But it's not all larky: when subtlety is called for Christie shows himself as adept at delicate phrasing as he is at having fun. Of an excellent cast, special mention must go to Claron McFadden, (also the best Galatea on record) who sings her two arias superbly. --Warwick Thompson

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Format:Audio CD
Opera in English doesn't just have to be Benjamin Britten and
questionable translations of the old favourites. Three hundred
years ago, Henry Purcell was dragging the art-form towards new
heights of emotional expressiveness whilst always remembering
to put in a few good tunes for the drunken groundlings to sing
along with. "King Arthur" runs the gamut of English styles,
beginning with a verse anthem (admittedly to the Saxon god
Woden!), going through masque and rowdy patriotism, and peaking
with one of the most ravishingly beautiful soprano arias ever written.
A quick warning is perhaps in order; King Arthur is semi-opera,
mixing spoken and sung sections in the same mould as The Magic Flute and Fidelio; this recording does miss out large chunks of
plot which the spoken sections originally presented! Nevertheless, a quick glance at the booklet should put a stop
to too much confusion and explain exactly what happens to all
the mysteriously disappearing Saxons that King Arthur is supposed to be battling in the first scene.
An additional joy to be found in King Arthur is that Purcell appears to be playing the same
games that many later composers tried- and thoroughly beating
them, too! Certainly his hilarious evocation of a loveless land,
populated by the unfortunate Cold People made me shiver far more than Vivaldi's comparatively clement winter; we have a seduction scene that has all the sensual eroticism of Parsifal's Flower
Maidens scene (thank heaven, it's much shorter too!); and Purcell's last act seems to create a last-night-of-the-Proms flag-waving atmosphere far better than clunky old Thomas Arne's Rule Britannia and all the rest of that panoply.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 21 July 2014
By Robert
Format:MP3 Download|Verified Purchase
A wonderful interpretation of one of my favourites.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best baroque performances on disc 8 Mar 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
As with many other Les Arts Florissants recordings, this one followed a live production, and it shows: the vocal and orchestral characterization of the music is all the more expressive and meaningful. King Arthur, like most other Purcell's "operas," is a combination of spoken drama and "incidental music" to accompany it. Les Arts Florissants presented the entire four-hour spectacle on stage, but committed to disc only the musical part. Yet, even without the spoken word, every scene feels complete. Especially memorable are the scene of sacrifice in the first act, the famous scene of the Cold Genius (wonderfully sung by Petteri Salomaa); and the succession of vocal numbers in the fifth act, including "The Fairest Isle" (in which Veronique Gens simply shines) and the incredible ATB trio "For Folded Flocks" (Padmore, Paton, Best). Incidentally, here as elsewhere, Christie adopts a lower pitch of a' 392 Hz in order to enable high tenors (hautes-contre) to sing alto parts. This has become Christie's signature practice, and it is perfectly borne out by the latest scientific research into authentic baroque performance methods. This recording won a major Gramophone award in 1995, a very deserved recognition of excellence!
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the best recording of a Baroque opera on CD 30 Sep 2006
By Steven Guy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
There is a marvellous sense of energy and joy which comes from this recording. I have the Pinnock recording of King Arthur and I used to have the Gardiner recording (it was stolen from me). I enjoy many things in all the recordings of this work, but Les Arts Florissants's recording is very special. I sang in a performance of this work two years ago and I played both the Pinnock and Christie recordings to my fellow chorus members and all agreed that the Christie recording is just brilliant in every way.

The cast of this recording is superb, all the usual LAF suspects are here - Véronique Gens, Claron McFadden, Sandrine Piau, Mark Padmore, Petteri Salomaa and others - and the orchestra and chorus are in top form.

Needless to say, there is some irony in this work, in that the music is very French in its form, structure and effects - the Cold Genius aria was plagiarised from one of Lully's operas! The opera is, of course, a semi-opera and would have included a considerable amount of spoken dialogue. However, the music Purcell composed for King Arthur or The British Worthy is in a class of its own. Only his French contemporaries Marc-Antoine Charpentier and André Campra penned music of the same quality.

I highly recommend this beautiful and exciting recording to all music lovers.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Susannah Waters! 22 May 2010
By Tony Consiglio - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
I must add one thing to the other five reviewers' praises: Susannah Waters - who has now gone on to a successful writing and directing career and who you may have never even heard of as a singer - here sings the most limpid and nimble lines you can imagine in the Act 3 masque with the Cold Genius. Her lyrical lines are melting and warm, yet well within the parameters of taste of today's baroque specialists; and her ornamentation is stunning and graceful and fleet. I wish more baroque singers combined these two qualities so well. I don't know why she quit singing, but this recording makes me sorry she did. Nevertheless, I greatly admire someone with this much talent who moves on to do other things with equal panache.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dominant 7 April 2010
By Rollo Tomassi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
I saw Les Arts Florissants and Christie perform this live in 2001, and I still consider it the most crushingly beautiful experience of my classical-music lifetime (I've been listening for almost 40 years now). Needless to say, I agree with the five-star recommendations above. The Deller recording is nice in its own way, but it's just not in the same league as a historic recording as this. If severely pressed, I might go so far as to say that if one could have only one baroque recording, this should be the one.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't miss this! 4 April 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Per Gramophone, this recording is one of the 75 best opera recordings of all time. I couldn't agree more. Bravo, William Christie. At least one other recording by Christie is also on this list (I didn't check, maybe there are more): Charpentier Medee.
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