The Strad Issue: January 2011
Description: A superlative account of some of the 17th-century master’s chamber music
Musicians: Retrospect Trio
Composer: Purcell

Even though more of his music is being performed and recorded than ever before, Purcell still hasn’t quite attained (at least in some circles) the level of recognition he deserves. He was not only a superb technician and a composer of exquisite taste and creative genius, but also spoke with an emotional directness and open-hearted poignancy that marks him out as a forefather of the finest composers of the 19th century.

The poignancy is particularly significant in relation to these technically flawless, deeply felt performances of the magnificent Sonatas in Three Parts (a follow-up to the Retrospect Trio’s stunning recording of the four-part sonatas on the same label). Violinists Sophie Gent and Matthew Truscott, bass violist Jonathan Manson and harpsichordist/organist Matthew Halls play with a glowing textural lucidity, expressive sophistication and easy spontaneity that fully capture the timeless quality of these priceless scores.

There was a time when the expressive bulges and pinched articulation delighted in by period-instrument exponents had begun to take on a rhetorical life all their own. Yet so attuned are the Retrospect players to Purcell’s unique sound world that each one of these 61 movements emerges like a fresh musical discovery. It’s a remarkable achievement captured in exemplary sound that, when the SACD track is activated, envelopes the listener in wave upon wave of musical sublimity.