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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gentle spirits of the air, 11 Dec 2012
By 
Stephen Midgley (Tarbrax, West Calder, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Purcell: The Fairy Queen (Audio CD)
Purcell's five-act semi-opera "The Fairy Queen", composed as a series of masques to be performed between the acts of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream", consists of music of extraordinary grace, brilliance, variety, and above all - as befits its original context - enchantment. And it's this last quality that has proved the most elusive to various otherwise excellent recorded performances over the years. There have been a number of well-regarded recordings, including those under Norrington, Christie, Harnoncourt, Gardiner and Christophers. This present set, recorded live at the Ravenna Festival in 2001, is performed by the Italian early-music ensemble Accademia Bizantina directed by Ottavio Dantone. However, the vocal soloists and chorus are all British - the point being well made on the cover by means of the ad hoc name New English Voices - so, for those who insist on their Purcell sounding as English as can be, rest assured that you won't be hearing Italian accents pronouncing "O letta me ever weep", or anything like that.

The soloists, in fact, are superb, and deserve to be named here: sopranos Carolyn Sampson, Gillian Keith, Rebecca Outram; countertenor William Towers; tenors Andrew Carwood, Robert Murray; and bass Michael Bundy. Every one of them does a terrific job - for example just listen, if you can, to the Plaint "O let me ever, ever weep" (CDII, track 15), delivered by Carolyn Sampson with the utmost delicacy in a poignant and entrancing duet with solo violin (you can sample the tracks here Purcell: The Fairy Queen). Here, as elsewhere, the period instruments of the Accademia Bizantina make their contributions most beautifully. String, wind and continuo players are all excellent; there are a couple of places where liberties are taken with the score, such as additional trumpet or percussion interventions, but these are plausible, tasteful and performed with both style and spirit.

Above all, though, it is Dantone's sensitive direction of Purcell's magical score that distinguishes this recording. He and his performers variously bring abundant energy, wit, tenderness and atmosphere to the music. To take another small example, the slurring of the string motifs in the scene of the Drunken Poet in I/7 is a lovely touch; and if you can hear more sample extracts, try CDI/4, 5, 9, 10 ..... or CDII/1, 2 or 8. Altogether these musicians succeed marvellously in capturing the spirit of Purcell's uniquely characterful music. In fact, this is by no means the only time I've heard a bunch of foreigners show the Brits how to play Purcell (see Abdelazer - Suites - Orchester Le Phenix (2CD)). Until I heard the present recording, my favourite was the excellent one under Harnoncourt - although, to be fair, I don't know William Christie's version - for Harnoncourt and his team come closer than most to drawing the listener into the enchanted world of "The Fairy Queen". But now, having got to know this present set, I would say that Dantone and his musicians do it even better. Their performance is as spirited and stylish as can be, they show a truly impressive mastery of the Purcellian idiom, and above all they convey the sheer magic of this captivating score.

At the time of writing, this two-CD set is still available both in its original Arts CD format with full notes and printed texts (Purcell: The Fairy Queen), and as a cheaper Brilliant Classics reissue with internet access to the libretto. In both cases, since this was a live recording, there is audience applause at the very end but not anywhere else. In fact the audience behave themselves perfectly and the recorded sound, in the Teatro Rossini in Lugo di Romagna, is excellent throughout.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great, 11 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Purcell: The Fairy Queen (Audio CD)
It was a birthday gift for my wife and she is as happy as it is possible to be. Thanks
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great atmosphere, 12 May 2013
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This review is from: Purcell: The Fairy Queen (Audio CD)
Lovely singing.
This was my second purchase! First, I had bought the 'Le concert des nations' version, because of very high ratings and SACD quality :-( however, i did not understand that 'orchestral' means 'without voices'!
This version is fine.
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Purcell: The Fairy Queen
Purcell: The Fairy Queen by Carolyn Sampso (Audio CD - 2012)
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