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GRAMOPHONE (08/2015)
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Reviewer: Richard Lawrence

There’s a lot going for  this newcomer. The  scale is modest: single  strings, with a theorbo  to supplement Christopher Monks’s  harpsichord; a chorus of eight, three of  whom also take solo parts. The playing is  wonderfully vital: the Triumphing Dance  at the end of the first act will have your  foot tapping, and the opening of Act 3 is  similarly cheering – until, that is, Miles  Golding puts down his violin to sing the  part of the Drunken Sailor. The players  also give due weight to the harmonic  clashes in the ritornello to ‘Ah! Belinda’  and in the Prelude for the Witches. The  chorus are light on their feet in the dance  numbers but aptly expressive in ‘Great  minds against themselves conspire’ and  the final ‘With drooping wings’.


The soloists are equally fine. Brighttoned Elin Manahan Thomas is well cast  as Belinda, though her phrasing is not  quite precise in ‘Pursue thy conquest,  Love’. Roderick Morris is pleasingly  unexaggerated as a countertenor Sorceress.  Aeneas is very much the lesser half of the  pair of lovers: Robert Davies seizes the  moment in his brief soliloquy. Rachael  Lloyd – lovesick, imperious, resigned – is an excellent Dido, her famous Lament  no less effective for being restrained. My reservations concern the witches.  The chorus’s ‘ho ho!’s are pretty standard  but the cackling extends to the First and  Second Witches’ ‘But ere we this perform’;  and the instrumental Echo Dance of Furies  is not improved by additional vocalisation.  Minor points, perhaps, not significant  enough to detract from an overall  recommendation. But don’t overlook René  Jacobs’s performance with Lynne Dawson  and Gerald Finley; and of course the young  Janet Baker with the English Chamber  Orchestra under Anthony Lewis (1961)  remains peerless.



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