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CD Review

Henry Purcell

The Fairy Queen

Jennifer Vyvan
Mary Wells
Norma Burrowes
James Bowman
Peter Pears
John Shirley-Quirk
Ambrosian Opera Chorus
English Chamber Orchestra/Benjamin Britten

Dido and Aeneas

Janet Baker
London Opera Chorus
Aldeburgh Festival Strings/Stuart Bedford
Decca 468561-2 157m ADD
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Two classic recordings of the stable Purcell operas find themselves on to a super value Double Decca package.

Britten's legendary version of 'The Fairy Queen' has lost none of its incisive brilliance and the recordings stands up pretty well to the test of time. The three sopranos, Vyvan, Wells and Burrowes surpass themselves in their qualities reaching ethereal heights of beauty in this inspired work. Britten goes for big band orchestral effects that demonstrate the singular vision of the composer who was clearly hugely in advance for his time. Pears and Shirley-Quirk are also solid exponents and the whole enterprise can safely be accorded top status. I hugely enjoyed the pompous orchestral passages and wonderful choruses sung with assured aplomb by the Ambrosian Opera Chorus. A recording to cherish in every way.

Decca have resurrected Bedford's shamefully neglected 'Dido and Aeneas' from the vaults and it deserves comparison with the best. Janet Baker is a stunning Dido whilst Peter Pears Aeneas is perhaps slightly staid but is experienced and characterful nonetheless.

The recording is brilliant and I would want to have this version alongside Parrot and other more recent recordings. As a double package, this is definitely great value for money although texts and translations are obviously missing.

Copyright © 2002, Gerald Fenech