It's been some time since I've had "the time" to write any reviews, let alone anything on this site.
Today was my graduation ceremony, and while that means I hopefully gain some time to myself to write here, it also opens up some new projects relating to our work. We'll see.
This post, however, is about a newly discovered album from an ensemble I admire, L'Arpeggiata directed by Christina Pluhar.
I came across the release with a review I read in the Guardian that, well, didn't recommend the album. And the author's review sounded apt: electric guitar with Purcell? Piano?
For those of you unaware, Pluhar's take on music is to spin it for a modern audience, at least as I see it. As a historical music instrument specialist, with many albums focused on baroque music, piano and electric guitar are outside the HIP movement, for sure.
But that's the basis. In this album, there's harpsichord, organ, recorders, and even baroque harp. But there's plenty more that Purcell would never have heard, including some of the harmony interpretations, the instruments, the rhythms, and certainly not some of the double bass.
But don't expect this to be Purcell ala 1700. It says as much on the album cover: Improvisations on Henry Purcell.
I hate to admit I'm somewhat ignorant of Purcell's music, aside from some instrumental works and things like Dido's Lament. His reputation, however, has always been high, and some consider him England's best baroque composer, if not one of history's best.
This album helps me, and likely will help others, realize what a genius the man is. But that's not to take credit away from Pluhar and Company. Because quite unlike this review, I think this is their best release to date.
Pluhar has grouped together some outstanding musicians, both instrumentalists and vocalists--but especially the vocalists. And yes, they probably went a little further this time with their interpretation, but who cares? The results approach the sublime.
My favorite tracks so far are tracks 2, 3, and 6, not to mention #8. The recorded sound quality (iTunes download) is outstanding, and if you're aren't moved by these tracks when listening to a sample, then, the album isn't for you.
The artistry that got my attention early on was the voice control... it's rare when you hear a recording and say "I don't think they could have done that better." Differently, sure, and maybe equally well, but the quality and care from the vocalists (among them, a favorite in Philippe Jaroussky) stands out.
Highly recommended - so much so that I skipped other new recordings to get to this one first - it's going to appeal to jazz lovers and baroque fans, I believe, in equal measure.
I so much support this type of interpretation of old music. And that's not to say it's the one way to do it. But the creativity involved in conceptualizing an album like this should be celebrated.