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4.2 out of 5 stars18
4.2 out of 5 stars
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 28 January 2015
Before I make my comments, please note that I'm reviewing the one CD only version.

This brilliant and enjoyable music is just the job for classcial aficionados who are also jazz fans. For my shelves, I've categorised it as "Post-Modern Purcell". In Baroque music, there is alway dance and I believe the continuo players were permitted to improvise anyway, so the notions of rhythm and experimentation were always there.

The main reason for my review, though, is to contest the statement that the work contains "skiffle" and to quell the idea that it's going to be bashed out on strummed guitar, washboard and one-string tea chest bass. Nothing could be further from the truth. The pianist and guitarist play jazz at times, but the whole thing couldn't be more refined.

The use of a soprano who doesn't sound classically trained, or not fully so, is interesting - and poignant.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on 8 March 2014
... after all the wonderful experiences Chirstina Pluhar has given us, this one feels like a real dud. Los Pajaros Perditos was a dazzler, as was the Monteverdi Vespers she did in St Denis. Teatro d'Amore, both in Metz and in Mexico, is one of my all time favourites. Mediterraneo was OK - lively, inspiring in playing and ornamentation.

It is left to the singers to convey what is left of the Purcellian idiom, and they are great. But the "arrangements", almost all by Pluhar, bring immediately to mind the dreaded word: skiffle. In various renderings, Bach suffered this "updating" treatment years ago, but Purcell doesn't stand it. What Deller and David Munrow started - and performed amazingly on various CDs still available - and Hogwood and others continued, meets an inglorious end here.

Rock bottom is the 20 minute "bonus" DVD. Four songs are recorded, skiffle group well in view, each track with repeated end credits. Singers win, again. The final "trailer", also with credits, contains nothing but the opening bars of the four songs just performed. Is this the sort of shoddy stuff what we are to expect from Erato/Warner? Hardly likely to provide a new spike in CD buying.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 20 February 2015
It's a wide world and there's room for everything. I love Purcell and I've bought all of this ensemble's previous efforts and I was willing to listen with an open mind. For people who are limited to a classical only viewpoint (and I respect that) - fair enough, it's not their cup of tea. I always think different is good
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 17 April 2014
JUST AS A LOVER of a much-treasured novel approaches a big screen adaptation with a combination of nervousness and excitement, so it was for me with this fascinating new release of Henry Purcell interpretations and improvisations. For many years, it has intrigued me how the works of a celebrated English composer active some three hundred years ago can, today, maintain their resonance and their power to move – and this is exactly the approach taken here in this new release, ‘Music for a while’, by Christina Pluhar’s L’Arpeggiata.

As a keen ‘Purcellian’, then – owning many fine recordings by such consummate performers as The King’s Consort with James Bowman, Susan Gritton et al (Hyperion), and William Christie’s Les Arts Florissants (Erato) – I was keen to discover these cross-genre re-imaginings of familiar classical pieces… and what a revelation!

Amongst Mr Purcell’s many compositional techniques was the ‘ground bass’ – a repeating bass structure over which he magically wove the most beautiful and varied melodies (often requiring detailed examination to believe that the same, recurring bass line is employed throughout). For instance (although not from this collection), the countertenor solo of Be welcome then, great Sir (from Purcell’s welcome song for Charles II, Fly, bold rebellion) is later elaborated, at length, over the same three-bar ground bass with the most ravishing orchestral ritornello. It would therefore, I suggest, be perfectly possible that this composer of great choral and theatrical masterpieces (as well as secular and even bawdy drinking songs) might be enthusiastically open to such improvisation and invention. So, with theorbo, archlute and cornet à bouquet, amongst many others, and a fine ensemble of players and choral soloists (whose styles range from period to contemporary), L’Arpeggiata set out to interpret Purcell with inflections of jazz, world and even pop, but with remarkable integrity.

A perfect example of the success of this project is 'Strike the viol' (from the 'Birthday Ode for Queen Mary', 'Come ye sons of art away'). The already melodious and dance-like brilliance of Purcell’s original, illustrating the soprano’s words ‘Strike the viol, touch the lute, wake the harp, inspire the flute’, are given the most glorious, rhythmic guitar and percussion treatment, along with the excitement of trumpet, electric guitar, wailing clarinet and ’60s ‘light my fire’ organ! The transcendent 'Evening hymn' is inventively transformed into a soft ballad with limpid piano over homely guitar and shimmering percussion – and whilst the crescendoing instrumental doesn’t quite hold the simple sacred reverence that Purcell intended, the bluesy piano and guitar here pleasingly demonstrate the improvisatory possibilities of these 17th/18th Century gems. ‘Twas within a furlong takes on a folksy, bluegrass feel, the animated words illuminated by shuffling percussion and mellow-but-lithe electric guitar; and the rhythmic vocal of 'Wondrous machine' (from Hail! bright Cecilia) sounds positively contemporary alongside pulsating tom-toms and jazz-infused bass, guitar, trumpet and clarinet.

The sublime and perhaps more well-known character of Purcell’s output is sensitively portrayed in delicate, yet modern readings of 'Music for a while' (a beautifully constructed jazz clarinet-led version with walking bass) and 'When I am laid in earth', which maintains its irrefutable and poignant beauty via weightless percussion, piano and guitar supporting a beauteous soprano voice (I recall Sir Michael Tippett being so affected with Purcell’s musical longing of “ReMEMber me”). And so the album continues, with attractive and often surprising reworkings of these great compositions.

Bonus track, Leonard Cohen’s 'Hallelujah', seems a little incongruous (unless it’s because I have never connected with this much-covered song, or don’t understand its relevance here). Perhaps I anticipated a ‘reversal’, with a very tight Purcellian treatment of this familiar late 20th Century hit – however, it is executed with the same attention to detail as the other sixteen tracks, and it could never detract from the overall ingenuity of this release.

It is difficult to second-guess the audience for Christina Pluhar’s visionary project – but, as a confirmed ‘Purcell purist’, I am suitably impressed, finding myself listening over and over to its intelligent, compelling beauty.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 10 March 2014
I have to agree in part with the previous reviewer, and while Purcell's work does not adapt well to the Pluhar treatment the real thorn has to be the absolutely dire rendition of Cohen's Hallelujah, it is nothing short of dreadful. A shame, I will not be so quick to order future releases. in my humble opinion L'Arpeggiata & Pluhar should stick to what they excel at.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 May 2015
I think it's perfectly obvious why Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah is on the disc. The refrain of Cohen's Halllujah has firm similarities with the extraordinary final Hallelujah in Purcell's Evening Hymn that one almost wonders if Cohen was inspired by Purcell, and the mood/style/tone of the pieces is also strikingly similar. Particularly interesting comparing the performance of the Evening Hymn at Track 4 with the Cohen at the end.
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on 16 January 2015
A typically enjoyable, stimulating, somewhat controversial project by L'Arpegiatta... and Purcell's music is perfectly able to survive the jazz fusion treatment, which is reminiscent of Jacques Loussier at times, although more idiomatically and instrumentally varied. Most of the out-and-out improvisation, on clarinet, guitar and piano, is done in a mainstream, swing-jazz style, with blue notes etc. It would have been interesting to have heard more improvisation within the baroque style, rather than simply grafting on mid-20th century American jazz idioms, but there is some enjoyable stuff here - "Strike the Viol" is particularly funky, with a raunchy clarinet solo.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 14 August 2014
Of course we all know Henry Purcell and we all know he was the first to revive English music and drama in the Post Restoration and then Glorious Revolution England after the puritan night. He is also the one who developed the Masque into the Quasi-opera to become the first step and stage towards the opera in England. He was also a militant of the countertenor, alto or whatever you can call him, in the English tradition of Oxford and Cambridge, of the all-men choirs before the arrival of castratos with Handel.

So Christina Pluhar just pushes our knowledge one iota further and she makes it jazzy, swinging like it never did, and yet, it sounds so natural that we are afraid to go out in the street and just come nose to nose face to face one on one with that great Henry Purcell. He is one of us after all and Christina Pluhar has just brought him back where he belongs. We are then not at all surprised by the conclusion with Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" that comes also naturally in this voyage. Leonard Cohen is also from that world of old, not so old though, that is part of our heart and mind everyday if we have some consciousness left after all the lies and formatting performed on our brains by the mass media of the subliminal today.

But to only bring together four singers who are all in the range of the "alto" of old, Philippe Jaroussky as a countertenor, Raquel Andueza as a soprano, Vincenzo Capezzuto as an alto and Dominique Visse as a countertenor, one female soprano surrounded by there men who sing within her range, is also an artistic project that requires some audacity and has to be properly saluted. She only has two duets, Jaroussky-Capezzuto and Andueza-Jaroussky and the magic of the duets comes from the tiny differences between the two voices in each case.

The only small defect of this CD is that it is a set of small pieces taken from various musical works by Henry Purcell and that prevents the whole CD to have a coherent meaning in the words it sings and to be reduced to its musical coherence which is not entirely enough from my point of view. But that does not prevent the whole performance to be a beautiful bouquet of brilliant flowers.

In "'Twas within a furlong" Vincenzo Capezzuto plays with his boyish voice to make that very popular song from The Mock Marriage a pleasant imbroglio that may remind us of Ben Jonson's The Silent Woman with a play on sex confusion in order to fool some Puritan male chauvinist pig. A man playing the silent woman. That play on genders has always fascinated the English.

With "Music for a While" Philippe Jaroussky is a serpent charmer who is trying to mesmerize our senses into total abandon in the arms of music, and that is no gender play or foreplay, but plain magic, the magic of the snake-haired Gorgon who on the order of Alecto, that angry Erinyes, managed to be tamed by the music the great mistress of this world and the supernatural pleasure of mental bliss.

Then in "Strike the Viol" a super jazzy Raquel Andueza is the girlish voice of some kind of young page who is supposed to please his patroness with his music. The result is quite funny and could easily be seen as the satire of the tradition of a later time and still too much present today to have pages played and sung by women playing the boys serving and titillating their mistresses but the mistress becoming a patroness is a sort of female patron, a patron under female disguise. Definitely we are really playing with gender with both hands and both feet at the same time. This kneading might bring our bread to rising point.

So with "Now that the Sun hath veiled his light" Philippe Jaroussky becomes the voice of an undetermined body that is going to bed and is trying to find some communion with a higher mental and ethical level. The body is not particular, just a soft bed will do and Philippe Jaroussky disposes of his body, gets rid of it in that soft bed but what about his soul? He goes to sleep in the arms of God transforming him into his own fatherly lover and that's where his soul finds the rest it is looking for along with security. Beautiful and never ending Hallelujah in that bliss of Philippe Jaroussky in the arms of God providing him with the mercy he needs to engulf himself in the full rest of the night.

Philippe Jaroussky and Vincenzo Capezzuto in "In vain the am'rous flute" play the love story of a flute and a guitar, a phallic flute and a lascivious female guitar. My Gosh we are playing with gender again and you can imagine the duet with Philippe Jaroussky slightly deeper than Vincenzo Capezzuto who is slightly more boyish if not childish, and there is no longer female and male, but we are playing with age. Is that guitar of age to play with the flute or vice versa? The duet is superb because of this very slight difference of the two voices that are really singing together one on one and in some fugue or canon form. And we do not miss one cue from Philippe Jaroussky to Vincenzo Capezzuto, the older man and the younger boy. Can we think it is more fatherly love than lascivious attraction, or maybe vice versa?

In "A prince of glorious race descended" Raquel Andueza after all, this time, is kosher and she praises a prince, at least his birthday. This time the music has a long solo that is so jazzy that we seem to have crossed the cosmos and landed on some other planet like New York of New Orleans.

With "O solitude, my sweetest choice" Philippe Jaroussky sings in a very sad tone that fits the subject marvelously, his double love or his two loves that are in full conflict. He is in love with solitude and at the same time he is in love with another person who loves solitude too. They have that love in common but that very love sets them apart and makes their mutual love impossible. Solitude is the best friend in life that brings us the knowledge of beauty and the longing for someone who likes solitude too and has found the beauty of it, but we could love each other frantically except that between us two there is that love for solitude and solitude is a jealous lover?

Raquel Andueza in "When I am laid in earth" on a slow jazzy music evokes her burial when she dies. It is beyond any material consideration, it is the fate of everyone to die and people will remember you but here the music and the song become a real dirge because Raquel Andueza wants to be remembered in herself and not in her fate. And since the song comes from Dido and Aeneas, we can think Dido is singing here, that queen who fell in love with a passer-by who played love to get what he wanted, ships, and dropped her like an old sock to her burning love when he had the sails he wanted.

Vincenzo Capezzuto with "Wondrous machine," on a mysterious music both jazzy and modern, sings some praise to Cecilia, the saint patroness of music. He nearly moves into some kind of rocky music that could be for us a charming hymn and motto calling all our legs and minds to the vast demonstration to conquer life through its notes, through its tempos. And there is like some submission to that fate. Well obliged since we know we are the snakes of this ascetic Sufi Fakir that music is.

In "Here the deities approve" Philippe Jaroussky merges music and love under one single God. He finds a tone that is both ecstatic and maybe slightly sad or simply agreeing to that fusion of music and love that are merged in one God but can only live their union below, in the human world in real life where both music and love can thrive. The music then is like the promise and the regret that the merger is in the realm of gods and can only be enjoyed in the world of man, in the lower world. Divided forever, divided allegiances that nothing can bring together again.

Raquel Andueza with "Ah! Belinda" sings her love for Belinda. Perfect love oxymoron that is as clear as can be. This song of unsatisfied love, of excessive grief is a lament in the singing but is a sort of slow whirling may pole dance in the music accompanying that song. The music is what her life would be if she could love and be loved back by that Belinda, so far away and so distant. The contrast between the two is heart tearing and mind rending.

In "Hark! How the songsters of the grove" Raquel Andueza and Philippe Jaroussky sing love, in nature, in the woods, in couples and the music is a real dance that makes you trot and spring on your toes. Philippe Jaroussky is slightly darker, deeper and Raquel Andueza is slightly lighter, higher and the two can sing their duet as if they were two turtle doves in love for ever, or at least for as long as necessary to enjoy the moment. The two voices are perfect in range and clearly different so that the duet is really dynamic and avoids the peril that could have menaced them: to be two in one and undistinguishable.

Vincenzo Capezzuto then with "One charming Night" is a lascivious boy who is hoping to get his lucky night, that night when he will be able to reach the sky and to hold it long enough to call it a long embrace. That boyish voice, that pubescent tone are just what we need to think of love the first time, of desire before love, of unsatisfied yet envy, desire, lusty hunger that make him brag about what he hasn't even experienced once yet. He speaks in the thousands and tries to make us dance along as if we were his fools.

In "Man is for the woman made" Dominique Visse in the tone and voice of a hawker in the street, or in the Covent Garden of old when flower girls and fruit sellers were peopling the place along with vegetable vendors and butchers of all types. Punch and Judy are not very far away and of course this Bartholomew Fair has its puppets and its good assertion of man and woman because man and woman are confused most of the time under disguises that the Puritan hated, just as much as the puppets, and the humoristic and sarcastic tone of the hawker is there to let us know we are lying all the time, including when we lie down in some soft bed with a lady lay or a juicy gay.

With "O let me weep" Raquel Andueza sings the sad sadness of the miserable Fairy Queen who has lost her love, whose lover has gone away on some adventure. Finally the Fairy Queen is devoted and attached to her male-asserted lover, her male-identified loss and the grief is in every syllable and in every note behind. Cry! Cry! And enjoy your crying! It is part of life and she wants to enjoy so much that she promises she will never sleep again. That Fairy Queen is kind of a cry baby but she is a narcissistic attraction to our own grief, or to our desire to experience such a deep grief because it is both inhuman and superhuman to know such deep drama. You have to be a fairy to love that much a man who has left you behind. Raquel Andueza is a perfect fairy in this dire strait between love and no-love, between remembering and forgiving.

The "Curtain Tune on a Ground" is a good closing music for that exploration of impossible love and dedicated sorrow. The rhythmic percussions are quite in the style of Henry Purcell and avoid as much as possible the polyrhythmic modern music of today and remain on one tempo, on one line and keep your feet aligned on your hands and your head. We are closing up with the tradition and we can have the bonus track and Vincenzo Capezzuto can give us his own personal interpretation of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", itself a free variation on Handel's "Hallelujah," though the words are not provided in the booklet: it's a classic, man, and Leonard Cohen is our man, as is well known and we know every single word of his songs. Meet modern times and old baroque times and Vincenzo Capezzuto lends his light boyish voice to that song and music that we do remember in Cohen's deep tones and colors, even though it must have been composed for a castrato, hence a countertenor or a male alto. Superb shortcut from one place to another, from one time to the next and even the one after the next to the one after this one.

Enjoy this experience. It is unique and after all it is some kind of vast evocation of love and particularly those loves of different shades that we can only think of and dare not even envisage in our immediate life, preferring grieving them to being engulfed in some adventure that leads to total abandon and fiery destruction.

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2014
This is a brilliant fusion of different musical styles along with great performances by players and singers alike. I rarely post a review but felt obliged to given some of the not so good feedback provided. I just wonder if the music is so unique that others accustomed to listen to the classics etc just cannot get it into their ears in a favourable light? In summary, personally I love this CD - it gives much pleasure!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 February 2015
Brilliant music! Phillipe is an extraordinary counter tenor and exceptional talent.
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