Purcell: Victorious Love - Sampson

Purcell: Victorious Love - Sampson


Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Vocal

Henry Purcell: Sweeter than roses, The fatal hour, When first Amintas sued for a kiss, The Plaint, They tell us that you mighty powers above, Man is for the woman made, From silent shades, Music for a while, Now the night is chas’d away, If music be the food of love, Thrice happy lovers (An Epithalamium), The bashful Thames, I attempt from Love’s sickness to fly in vain, Oh! fair Cedaria, Fairest isle, O solitude, If love’s a sweet passion, The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation, An Evening Hymn

Carolyn Sampson (soprano)
Laurence Cummings (harpsichord & spinet)
Elizabeth Kenny (archlute & theorbo)
Anne-Marie Lasla (bass viol)
Sarah Sexton (violin)
Andrea Morris (violin)
Jane Rogers (viola)

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PCM recording
Reviews (1)

Review by John Miller - September 29, 2007

Henry Purcell (who pronounced his surname with emphasis on its first syllable) shared a gift with Shakespeare of being able to imbue his dramatic personae with real human emotions. This new recital of his songs from BIS is compiled both from Purcell's stage works (such as King Arthur, The Fairy Queen and The Indian Queen) and collections of miscellaneous works which were published after his tragically early death at the age of 36. In the BIS programme are several timeless favourites such as Music for a While, Fairest Isle, O Solitude and An Evening Hymn. There are also miniature dramatic scenas such as When First Armintas Sued for a Kiss and The Blessed Virgin's Expostulation, the latter a stunning evocation of Mary's thoughts and state of mind at witnessing the crucifixion of her son. The collection depicts the influence of Love, in all its guises; anguished, romantic, spiritual, ecstatic and sexual. Is Love victorious? Make up your own mind.

Carolyn Sampson, well-known for her frequent solo appearances in BIS' Bach Cantata series, is an ideal choice for these gems of English song. The poetry and playwriting at Purcell's time in the second half of the C17th was emotionally over-heated and rich with allegory and references to Graeco-Roman mythology. These would of course have been well-understood by contemporary audiences, but to us now they may seem cumbersome, florid and stilted. But add Purcell's music to this prose, and the humanity of these songs is apparent to all.

Singers of these songs need to be consummate actors, and this Carolyn Sampson certainly is. Her voice has remarkable purity and flexibilty, and she provides ornamentations of Italian and French origin which sound so natural, enhancing the fluidity of her vocal lines. But I most admired her range of characterisations, which really bring these songs to life. In the first song, Sweeter Than Roses, she begins in a half-voice, stunned by a kiss, in a young girl's puzzled anguish at the overwhelming experience. Surprised, she next bursts into a laughing voice as a bolt of pure joy strikes her. This is wonderful portrayal and understanding, the Art which conceals Art. In other songs, she suggestively nudges and winks at us with bawdy intent (When First Arminta...), calmly and with noble tone extols the virtues of England as a place where Love flourishes (Fairest Isle) and finally bids us gently towards wholesome sleep with The Evening Hymn. So many vocal colours, supported by the rich acoustic of a London church, which she exploits with great skill for the projection of her voice and characters.

This solo voice is supported with a highly experienced group of period-style instrumentalists, playing various combinations of bass viol, violins, viola, archlute and theorbo, harpsichord and spinet. Several of the songs have extended instrumental introductions, which beautifully set their environment. I have particular praise for Anne-Maria Lasla on the bass viol for the gravitas and eloquence of her playing, especially in the ground bass tunes which are a crucial element of many of Purcell's songs. Singer and instrumentalists together create an ensemble seemingly of one mind.

There is little to say about the 5.0 recording except that it is typical of BIS; immediate and detailed yet airy. The stereo mix captures much of the atmosphere of the church as well.

Carolyn Sampson's account of these wonderful songs joins those by Barbara Bonney, Nancy Argenta and Emma Kirkby in their artistry, and should not be missed.

Copyright © 2007 John Miller and


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