Confluence’s Purcell

Last night Confluence Concerts streamed their latest offering; a tribute to Henry Purcell, preceded by a pre-show interview between Larry Beckwith and Andrew Parrott.  There was beautifully played instrumental music from Victoria Baroque, songs from Lawrence Williford and Lucas Harris recorded at the Elora Festival and a couple of interesting takes on If Music Be the Food of Love plus Two Daughters of this Aged Stream featuring Daniel Taylor, Rebecca Genge and Sinéad White plus instrumentalists from the UoT Faculty of Music Historical Performance Department.  I was less taken with Duo Serenissima (Elizabeth Hetherington, soprano and David Mackor, theorbo).  I can’t tell whether it was the recording acoustic or a diction issue but the words were pretty much unintelligible which is a big problem with Purcell!.

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The funnest performance of the night was Suba Sankaran and Dylan Bell’s very unconventional take on Dido’s Lament and I Attempt from Love’s Sickness to Fly.  The lament uses a lot of jazzy “tape looping” that creates a curious sense of instrumental accompaniment.  The second number starts pretty conventionally with piano accompaniment and then get’s steadily more improvised with backing vocals.  I think Purcell would have approved.  We also got a very dramatic From silent shades ‘Bess of Bedlam’ from Patricia O’Callaghan and Robert Kortgaard.  I don’t know whether it was intended but it had a curiously 19th century parlour feel to it.  All in all, an interesting and varied programme in the Confluence tradition.

The pre-show chat was interesting.  I’ve always found Andrew Parrott to be one of the more thought provoking of the HIP folks; partly at least because he goes back to the early days and partly because of his interest in English music in particular.  The interview is a bit peculiar in that he often seems to be about ti say something controversial then sort of goes off on a different track.  I really wanted to hear more about his views on countertenors in the 17th century but he never quite goes there while hinting that the approach that emerged in Britain in the 1960s (Alfred Deller and so on) is quite wrong.  I think he’s saying that to the (very French influenced) Purcell the countertenor was close to a French haut-contre rather than the more ethereal style that the revivalists adopted (at least initially).  Listening to both Britten and Purcell’s music for countertenor pushes me in that direction but I’ve also read that Purcell himself sang both bass and countertenor which suggests the opposite.  Anyway  you can watch for yourself and make your own mind up.  The complete interview and show can be found on Youtube.

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