Welcome Purcell Reissues from William Christie

Well this is a nice present. In honor of William Christie’s 90th birthday, Harmonia Mundi is reissuing some of his landmark recordings. This particular present is a two-disc set of Purcell. It’s really a present for us all. 

Christie and Les Arts Florissants recorded Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” in 1989. “The Fairy Queen” recording followed three years later. Both the recorded sound and performances have aged well. 

Early music, like other aspects of classical music, is an evolving art form. Over time ideas about interpretations evolve. New recordings of this material can sound very different than Christie’s. 

But William Christie’s genius was in finding the balance between scholarship and musicality. These are well-researched, historically-informed performances. Les Arts Florissants effectively recreated the sound heard in Purcell’s time. 

But they’re also musical performances. Purcell’s 1689 “Dido and Aeneas” is considered the first English opera. His work “The Fairy Queen” from 1692 is based on Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” These are both dramatic works for the theater.

Christie knew he was telling stories with these works. Both performances effectively convey the dramas. If you know nothing about 17th-century music, you can still enjoy these stories. 

Everything is sung with such clean, clear articulation. You might not even need the libretto. These recordings are as rewarding to listen to today as they were when first released.

As I say, this set is a present to us all.  

Henry Purcell: Dido and Aeneas; The Fairy Queen
Les Arts Florissants; William Christie, conductor
Harmonia Mundi HAX 8904106.08
2 CD Set

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