Purcell’s King Arthur Impeccable Musicality by Robert King

 SpainSpain Purcell: King Arthur, The King’s Consort and Choir, Robert King (conductor), Madrid Auditorio Nacional, 6.11.2014 (JMI)

Purcell: King Arthur, The King’s Consort and Choir, Robert King (conductor), Auditorio Nacional de Música, Madrid, 6.11.2014 (JMI)

Until recently, Henry Purcell (1659-1695) had been considered the most important British composer in history, a title now shared, with good reason, by Benjamin Britten. Whether sharing preeminence or not, the fact is that Henry Purcell is a great musician whose compositions I’ve always considered ahead of his time and of exceptional quality. Among his operas, undoubtedly the most famous is Dido and Aeneas, while the others  ̶  The Fairy Queen, The Indian Queen and King Arthur  ̶   share the problem of responding to the British taste of the period, when opera was conceived of as pure theatre and music. The principal performers were mainly actors, while the singing parts were essentially covered by allegorical or fantastic characters. Hence those works are rarely performed on stage nowadays, and Dido and Aeneas is the only well-known Purcell opera.

King Arthur was performed by The King’s Consort, conducted by its director, Robert King. The version consisted of the entire musical part of the work and eliminated  the spoken parts.

The British groups are particularly good at this kind of music, and there is no doubt that The King’s Consort is one of the very best among them. Robert King is not only a conductor but also a great musicologist who has done much to recover ancient works. His conducting was reliable and without superficial gestures; he showed a deep knowledge of the opera and drew an excellent performance from all the forces at his command. The orchestra was superb, and the same can be said of the choir which consisted of 11 members (soloists, rather) of impeccable musicality, beyond the vocal quality of each of its components.

The program provided the names of the soloists without any mention of the characters they were playing. Among the male voices, I should mention the performance of bass Matthew Brook, who has an interesting voice and good expressiveness; and tenor Charles Daniels, with strong musicianship, although his voice is not outstanding. Among the women, soprano Julia Doyle was quite good in all her contributions.


José Mª Irurzun


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