Sunday, October 10, 2010

Henry Purcell - Dioclesian, Timon of Athens - Argenta, Agnew, Pinnock, The English Concert and Choir







Dioclesian is the tale of a simple Roman private, Diodes, who fulfils the prophecy of Delphia (a prophetess, and hence Dioclesian's alternative title) that one day he will become emperor. In the meantime, Diodes avenges the slaying of the previous emperor and becomes a hero. With ambitions realized he discovers the he has over-played his hand by responding to Princess Aurelia's advances in the place of a nice homely girl called Drusilla, whom he had agreed to marry. The prophetess, who happens to be Drusilla's aunt, plans his come-uppance before he realizes the emptiness of his aspirations, abdicates and returns to nature and Drusilla. It is good to know the story of Purcell's first major theatre success, though not essential since this hotch-potch adaptation of older plays impinges little on the music and, moreover, none of the protagonists sings a note. Yet this production at Dorset Garden in 1690, with all the hallmarks of compromise and messiness, was a huge hit and made Purcell's name on the London stage instantly. Ironically, Purcell's dramatic instincts had to find an outlet in incidental rather than integral 'operatic' music (plays with lots of spectacle was what the public wanted, with music an adornment of that spectacle), though Purcell would have been flattered that this was the first time a semi-opera had been entrusted to a single composer. So proud was he that he published the complete score. The constraints of semi-opera — where music and narrative are such uneasy bed-fellows — do give Purcell a free hand in some respects. If Dioclesian is the least stageable of the composer's four works in this genre, he evidently saw opportunities of characterization and mood-setting on a scale he had previously only dreamed and the Masque in Act 5, in particular, is a remarkably fine achievement of self-contained structural planning.
The success of any performance depends largely on conveying Purcell's fresh sense of adventure. Trevor Pinnock's account is undoubtedly the one which reflects most strikingly the sense of gravitas and noble grandeur which constitutes much of the music in Acts 1-3. Stephen Gadd sings a magisterial "Great Diodes" and Pinnock's homogeneous and legato forces bathe luxuriously in Purcell's delectable counterpoint in the choruses. There is a sort of nonchalant virtuosity too about The English Concert (for example the Act 2 ritornellos) which one notices in the splendid Act 2 Symphony.--Gramophone 


ape, scans

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Otto

    Thanks for the great uploads. You always ahve something worth listening to.

    There's a problem with this one, though. Parts 3,4, & 6 are missing. Could you recheck these links please?

    Danks schön


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