Gabrieli Consort/McCreesh, Wigmore Hall, London

Wigmore Hall, London

In Purcell's day, it was often pot luck which copies of musical masterpieces were preserved and which ended up insulating walls, burned as kindling or fed to the pigs. Until recently, his 1694 ode Come Ye Sons of Arts Away survived only in a version copied decades after his death by Robert Pindar - and until recently, Pindar's well-meaning "improved" version was taken to be Purcell's genuine article.

The Gabrielis' performance of Rebecca Herissone's new edition thus offered something rare: a genuinely new angle on a familiar work. It is lighter on its feet, something the 12 players responded to heartily under Paul McCreesh's sparing direction, even if the relative thinness of the scoring tricked the soloists into singing a touch too gently.

This was, however, inevitably something of an ensemble curtain-raiser for a star turn. Mezzo Sarah Connolly will make her inexplicably belated Royal Opera debut next spring as Purcell's Dido; here she joined the Gabrielis for a concert performance of the hour-long opera. In Covent Garden she will doubtless have to do things differently, yet in the intimacy of the Wigmore she drew us in irresistibly, internalising Dido's arias but giving us frequent glimpses of emotion in a performance at once regal and touching.

With the performers singing to each other rather than to music stands, this had the feel of a dramatic presentation. The strings and continuo provided boisterous linking dance movements, and the soloists included Ronan Collett's expressive Aeneas, Elin Manahan Thomas's sparkling Belinda, and countertenor Daniel Taylor, a mischievous mix of diva and zombie as the Sorceress.


Erica Jeal

The GuardianTramp

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