The Strad Issue: January 2008
Musicians: Il Suonar Parlante, Vittorio Ghielmi (soprano viol/director)
Composer: Purcell

Purcell’s fantasias in three, four and, in one case, five parts comprise sharply defined sections of varying tempo and character. They demonstrate his resourcefulness in the techniques of imitation and contrapuntal elaboration as well as his daring harmonic idiom and expressive use of dissonance.

Vittorio Ghielmi and Il Suonar Parlante delve beyond Purcell’s text to give perceptive accounts of these works. They interpret them with a rare intensity and expressive freedom, capturing their subtle nuances with delicacy and refinement and adding affective ornamentation as appropriate. Just sample the extremes of dynamic exploited in the F major Fantasia (Z737), which culminates in a grand, slow coda rich in harmonic colour; or the remarkable C minor work Z738, in which much is made of the expressive harmonies, pungent false relations and closely integrated thematic content of its melancholy opening section. Other highlights include especially striking characterisations of the B flat major (Z736) and G minor (Z735) fantasias, the ingeniously fashioned Fantasia upon One Note (Z745), in which the fifth part has evidently here been ‘engineered’, and a delightful three-part fantasia fragment dating from 1682/83, all performed with sensitivity, style and consummate artistry.

The reverberant recording captures most of the contrapuntal detail with clarity and fidelity, but the disc gives short measure at only 41 minutes’ playing time. The inclusion of some contrasting fantasias by, for example, John Banister, John Jenkins or Matthew Locke would have provided an appropriate platform for Purcell’s undoubtedly superior examples of the genre and offered better value for money.