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Purcell Quartet

Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works

General Discussions

About the Purcell Quartet Latest Release

Sw Anandgyan wrote (March 10, 2005):
I have noticed the Early Cantatas vol. 1 by the Purcell Quartet on the Chandos label:
and I just took the time to listen to some bits from the Actus Tragicus as to have a feel and these are my first impression;

So nice with hardly any blemishes nor any pizzaz. Is there such a thing as HIP with Botox? I felt that the beauty was stiff.

Granted I scan quickly over it, but this is not the new recording of BWV 106 that I shall acquire.

Has any other members got a hold of this CD and heard more than me?


Paul Dirmeikis wrote (March 10, 2005):
[To Sw Anandgyan] I listened to the samples on JPC.

I can understand your impression. Personally, I LOVE when Bach sounds like that. It reminds me of the Rifkin recordings.

I disagree with your "Botox" comparison. The samples I listened to don't sound rigid nor artificial, but simply appear under a very harsh lighting, because of the OVPP option and a very clear recording. I think it's worth a complete and attentive listening.

I will definately purchase this recording. I already loved the Lutheran Masses that the Purcell Quartet recorded five years ago.


Purcell Quartet's "Early Cantatas" (Vol. 1)

Drew Point wrote (March 31, 2005):
Has anyone heard this new release (OVPP with Kirkby, Chance, Daniels, Harvey)? If so, what are your impressions?

John Pike wrote (April 9, 2005):
"JS Bach Early Cantatas, Volume 1", Purcell Quartet. BWV 4, 131, 106, 196

Someone was asking recently if anyone had heard this recording. I have now had a chance to listen to it and give you my considered a word, STUNNING!

OK, there is nothing terribly authentic about getting together some of this country's most outstanding musicicians in a church in Hampstead, London, and record them with 24-bit technology, but in every other respect they have tried hard to be as authentic as possible. The recording is OVPP/OPPP. The violins are original instruments and all the other instruments are modern copies of originals. The organ is tuned at Chorton pitch (A=466) in 1/6 comma mean tone and the strings play at that pitch as well. The wind are pitched at Cammerton A=415.

The instrumentalists are outstanding and so are the soloists (Emma Kirkby, soprano; Michael Chance, counter-tenor; Charles Daniels, Tenor; Peter Harvey, Bass.

All the performances are beautifully phrased and articulated. There is much dynamic range and striking contrast in moods and tempi, which are well chosen throughout.

I remember Uri saying a few weeks ago that he felt it was WRONG to perform BWV 106 in any way other than OVPP. Having heard this recording, my first and only recording of BWV 106, I am inclined to agree. Indeed, of all the recordings I have of this extraordinary early masterpiece, this is the one that best captures the sense of funeral music.

Our 20 month-old daughter loved it as well, making appropriate noises of appreciation as soon as BWV 4 started, and showing great happiness when she recognised the theme of BWV 106/2, which her mummy and daddy sing to her quite often, not very well!

Highly recommended!

Cord Brügmann wrote (April 9, 2005):
[To John Pike]Yes, you are so right. The recording is outstanding. I have listened to it a couple of times in the past 2 weeks. Emma Kirkby is wonderful. The performance reveals the structure of the cantatas like I have not heard before. The CD is a must.


Early cantatas by the Purcell Quartet

Paul Dirmeikis wrote (April 17, 2005):
I'd like to modestly share a few impressions on the last release of the Purcell Quartet (Chandos Records). This early cantatas CD proposes BWV 4, BWV 106, BWV 131 and BWV 196, almost the same program than Junghänel's 2000 recording (Harmonia Mundi). Both relying their interpretation on an OVPP principle.

I got this CD about two weeks ago, and listened to it many times. My first impressions were immediately very positive, and confirmed my listening to some samples on JPC. A very homogeneous and sensitive interpretation, expressing so well the pietism and almost dolorism of these poignant meditations on death (BWV 4, BWV 106 and BWV 131). A great care of clarity and balance between the 4 voices, and between the voices and the instruments. An excellent recording technique.

I haven't heard Emma Kirkby for a while, and almost thought she wasn't recording anymore. In the past I often read in reviews that one found her voice inexpressive (in French, we say "une voix blanche") and lacking in harshness.. If perhaps there could have been some grounds for this appreciation in the past, it seems it's not true anymore, at least with this recording where Miss Kirkby's voice is very expressive and nuanced.

I have also been pleasantly surprised by counter-tenor Michael Chance. In other recordings, or even live on stage, I often found his voice affected and acid... But in this recording, his timbre has softened, and mingles very well with the other voices. He's not yet my favourite counter-tenor, especially in the arias, but...

I also highly appreciate the warmth and sensitivity of bass Peter Harvey.

After many listenings, I started comparing these cantatas with different OVPP versions I have.

"Christ lag in Todes Banden" BWV 4 : (Parrott, Junghänel)
I never appreciated very much Junghänel's recording. Except for the opening sinfonia, he hurries the tempi too much, many times, in my opinion, close to a complete misinterpretation of the meaning of the cantata, and the singers sound unconcerned and don't seem involved in what they are singing. Strangely, Junghänel doesn't end the cantata with a short choral (versus VII) as Parrott, Purcell Quartet, or Harnoncourt do, but with a longer and fast movement. The Purcell Quartet's tempi are more similar to Parrott's. Parrott's interpretation is beautiful indeed, but sometimes seems to lack in relief. I think it's more because of the recording technique than of the interpretation

"Gottes Zeit is allerbeste Zeit" BWV 106 (Actus tragicus) (Rifkin, Junghänel)
Here, the tempi of the three versions are globally more alike (except for the opening sonatina quite fast with Rifkin - 2:13 when the others clock around 2:40). Junghänel can't compete at all with the absolute purity and limpidity of Rifkin's interpretation, which gains, in my opinion, by a quasi perfect recording technique. Junghänel sounds unimaginative and uniform. The Purcell Quartet stands up better to the comparison because of its sensitivity and subtleties, but nevertheless can't reach Rifkin's height.

"Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir" BWV 131 (Rifkin, Daniel Taylor with the Theatre of Early Music)
This cantata contains one of my favourite Bach pieces, the 3rd section "Ich harre des Herrn", and it's mainly this part I listened to for my comparing. Taylor and Rifkin have the same tempo, the Purcell Quartet is a little slower. What is essential in this part, in my opinion, is the balance of all the voices and instruments in this delicate and melancholy contrapuntal weaving, moving like subtle and iridescent waves swaying on the sea... The three versions are beautiful (I wonder if it's possible to perform this music otherwise) but I think that the slower tempo of the Purcell Quartet helps this balance the most : voices and instruments sound more being all part of an organic and mottled unity. One perceives better the particular swing of this part.

"Der Herr denket an uns" BWV 196 (Junghänel)
Here again, Junghänel's fast tempi put him at a disadvantage, a polyphonic clarity perspective (the words of the cantata here are less meaningful), and the recording technique doesn't help either. The Purcell Quartet singers are more sensitive and lyric, essentially Kirkby in the aria "Es segnet, die den Herrn fürchten".

To sum up, I warmly recommend this release, which is said to be the first volume of an "Early cantatas" series. I hope the following volumes will have the same high qualities.

Of course, you must not be allergic to the OVPP option...

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 17, 2005):
Is this enthusiastically-recommended recording available in the US yet? I tried looking for it last week, but no luck.

Adrian Horsewood wrote (April 17, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] I think so (but I'm only in the UK, so you might want to check yourself...!):

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 17, 2005):
[To Adrian Horsewood] Thank you! Silly me, I had been searching on keywords such as "bach kirkby purcell" and "bach purcell quartet" and "bach kirkby" to no avail.

John Pike wrote (April 18, 2005):
[To Paul Dirmeikis] I thoroughly enjoyed this recording as well.

I don't know the Junghänel recording but the Purcell quartet recording was reviewed this month in BBC Music Magazine. Nicholas Anderson gave it only 3/5, saying he much preferred the Jungh:anel, his "Benchmark" recording. I can't comment on that but I'm interested to see that you thought less highly of the Junghaenel. I certainly disagree with many of Anderson's comments about the Purcell Quartet recording.


The Purcell Quartet Early Cantatas vol. 1 [BeginnersBach]

Sw Anandgyan wrote (July 15, 2005):
I browsed the latest issue of the French magazine 'Le Monde de la Musique' available in North America and the Early Cantatas vol. 1 from the Purcell Quartet got trashed by the reviewer.

On a scale of 5, he gave it a meager 1 for, according to him, a horrible mixing of voices in the very first chorus of BWV 4, mentioned a couple of other things about singing and went on to wonder why Chandos Chaconne would allow such a release. He much prefered the Ricercar Consort recording with their second version of the Actus Tragicus (BWV 106).

Oh well, I had once hinted at that particular Purcell Quartet CD as a Botoxified HIP when a certain stiffness hampers somewhat the still noticeable beauty of a rendition, but I would not dare brush it off as a failure.

Oh well ...


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