A joyful taste of English music

First published in Entertainments

ON a grey and drizzly afternoon on Sunday, September 23, Salisbury Baroque with Katharine Hawnt (soprano) gave an appreciative audience in St Thomas’s Church a joyful taste of the glories of English music composed as the country emerged from the dark and inharmonious years of the commonwealth.

Henry Purcell dominated the programme, which opened with the famous Nymphs and Shepherds and closed with a sparkling performance of the Chaconne from The Fairy-Queen.

In between we were treated to orchestral pieces written for the theatre and popular masques of the period, and to sensitive and graceful performances of Purcell’s best known songs (Music for a While, If Music be the Food of love and Bess of Bedlam).

Catherine Martin led the orchestra with enthusiasm and authority and the players responded by producing music which combined verve with a wonderful warmth of tone. Katharine Hawnt, a singer with a growing reputation in early music, charmed the audience with her interpretation of both the secular and devotional songs.

Louise Stewart and Uri Smilansky deserve a special mention for the fresh sound they produced on their recorders, and David Davies' programme notes were first rate.

Another special mention has to be made of the delicious tea served in the interval.


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