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The Purcell Quartet have rapidly built up an enviable reputation with their recordings of trio sonatas by Corelli, Vivaldi and Purcell. Admirers of earlier discs are not likely to be disappointed by this third volume in their Corelli series.
Corelli's trio sonatas have been somewhat neglected over the years. While textbooks have long proclaimed the esteem in which they were held by countless musicians, emphasizing their historical importance due to frequent reprintings, record catalogues have always favoured first the op.6 concerti grossi and then the op.5 solo sonatas. The trio sonatas are now back in fashion, however, and this generous disc from the Purcell Quartet comprises 12 works - the first halves of the op.3 and 4 collections, sensibly grouped in pairs in alternating church and chamber styles. Further variety is provided by the continuo section. When op.3 was published in 1689 there were four separate partbooks: one for |Violone o Arcileuto' and one for |Organo' as well as one each for the violins. Thus, in addition to the contrast between organ for these church sonatas and harpsichord for the chamber sonatas of op.4, two of the op.3 works here include Jakob Lindberg's theorbo. This adds an attractve sonority and also highlights the more active counterpoint when the bass line splits into two, as in the last movement of op.3 no.5.
Variety is not restricted to continuo scoring, for the Purcell Quartet are skilled at capturing the contrasting moods inherent in these fine works. Movements have a dear sense of shape and proportion, whether they are longer multi-sectional pieces, such as the splendid prelude of op.4 no.6 with its dramatic five-part adagio-allegro sandwich, or the ensuing brief Allemanda, whose dotted rhythms receive a delightfully crisp performance. Although dynamic contrasts are sometimes …