[ ECM New Series / CD ]
Release Date: Friday 22 September 2023
Henry Purcell's "fantazias" are regarded as some of the finest and most intricately wrought examples of the fantasia, due to their profound embrace of counterpoint and great command of the polyphonal techniques of the time. Composed in the summer of 1680 - a time when the fantasia was already considered old-fashioned and had been replaced by the sonata - Purcell's "fantazias" turned out to be the very last ensemble fantasias to be published in England. As John Holloway notes in his detailed liner text contextualizing the three- and four-part works, "it is tempting in retrospect to see their brilliant distillation of the very best of Byrd, Lawes, Jenkins and Locke as a personal farewell to a kind of music, which in Purcell's own chamber music would soon be superseded by sonatas".
In this recording John Holloway and his ensemble - violists Monika Baer and Renate Steinmann as well as violoncellist Martin Zeller - excel at bringing to light the emotional nuance and technical complexity of the works in all their transparency and colorfulness, naturally emphasizing Purcell's contrapuntal idiosyncrasies in the process. Holloway's expansive studies of Purcell's life and work are evident in this music, and the violinist discloses his great appreciation of the composer in the accompanying text, saying, "only just out of his teens, Purcell already shows his extraordinary ability, shared by few other composers of any era, to walk the fine line between joy and sorrow, to beautifully express the melancholy which was such a characteristic mood of his times; and all this within the strictest self-imposed disciplines of complex counterpoint."