Trevor Pinnock Uncovers Early Instrumental Works by Purcell

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Purcell, Croft, Corelli, Handel: Sophie Gent (violin), Matthew Truscott (violin), Jonathan Manson (bass viol and cello), Trevor Pinnock (harpsichord and organ), Chipping Campden International Music Festival, St James’ Church, Chipping Campden, 11.5.2016. (RJ)

Purcell: Sonata in four parts No 9 in F major; Suite No 4 in A minor for harpsichord; Sonata in three parts No 10 in A major; Sonata in three parts No 6 in C major; Sonata in three parts No 9 in C minor; Sonata in four parts No 6 in G minor

Croft: Ground in C minor for harpsichord (originally attributed to Purcell)

Corelli: Sonata (Ciacona) in G Major Op 2, No XII; Sonata in C major Op 3, No VIII

Handel: Chaconne in G major for harpsichord; Sonata in C minor Op 2 No 6.

Purcell is best known for his vocal and dramatic music, but early on in his career in his early twenties he composed a considerable body of instrumental chamber music. A particular inspiration for him was the Italian trio sonata, and most of the first half of this concert was devoted to this genre of music. Although the works are described as being in either three or four parts, they all employ four instruments – two violins, viola da gamba and keyboard (harpsichord or organ).

The first work, also known as The Golden Sonata, set the tone for the evening with its cheerful allegro, expressive grave movement and jaunty conclusion. There was plenty of spring in the opening of the Sonata in A major and a lively fugato conclusion separated by a wistful Largo and a somewhat martial Grave. Sophie Gent, who hails from Western Australia,  and Matthew Truscott proved to be a pair of well-matched violinists who brought energy and freshness to their performances.

Trevor Pinnock, who had devised the programme with great skill and erudition, suggested that Purcell had gone one better than the Italians and in terms of rhythmic language had created a unique style of music. This was particularly apparent when the chamber organ replaced the harpsichord in Sonata No 9 with its wide range of melodic invention – a joyful Canzone. dramatic Adagio and rollicking allegro finale – a wide range of emotion all concentrated within a space of just a few minutes. The first half of the concert culminated with the Sonata in G minor, also with organ. Unlike the preceding sonatas it consisted of variations over a repeating bass melody (or basso ostinato) which created an interesting range of harmonies and melody.

Purcell’s contemporary Arcangelo Corelli made an appearance after the interval with his richly textured Ciocona in G major and the Sonata in C major which was very much in the Purcell mode in terms of variety of expression. Then the audience was propelled forward some 40 years to hear a magnificent work by Handel, his Sonata in G minor which offered plenty of scope to the violinists including a beautiful duet and a competitive sounding finale.

The foursome’s visit to Chipping Campden brought back happy memories for the sprightly Trevor Pinnock, who recalled that one of his first professional engagements had been in Chipping Campden back in 1965. Age has clearly not diminished his energy, for in addition to providing the continuo accompaniment – alongside the steady and reliable Jonathan Manson – he contributed a number of harpsichord solos including the Chaconne in G major, a showpiece work with which Handel often regaled his listeners, which was played with tremendous verve and panache.

Roger Jones

The Chipping Campden Music Festival continues until May 21. (


Leave a Comment