+Ricercar, Carlos Mena, Damien Guillon, Philippe Pierlot
Blow’s “Mark how the lark and linnet sing”, is an eloquent elegy for the late Henry Purcell, first published by Henry Playford in the June 1696 issue of The Craftsman. The melancholy ode, accompanied by only two plaintive recorders and basso continuo, has been recorded by several pairs of illustrious countertenors, and in this new version the first mournful passages force Carlos Mena and Damien Guillon to use much more chest voice than sounds convincing before they suddenly leap into falsetto mere moments later. Perhaps this confirms the wisdom of Peter Holman and his Parley of Instruments’ unique version to employ two very high tenors (Rogers Covey-Crump and Charles Daniels), which seems not only the most historically plausible solution but also the most satisfying means to navigate the extraordinary wide range demanded by Blow’s vocal writing (Hyperion, 3/93). Nevertheless, Mena and Guillon both sound entirely at ease with Dryden’s eloquent English and the musical moods to illustrate literary allusions are captured poignantly. Some of Pierlot’s tempi are a fraction fleet-footed but the recorders blend sensitively with the voices and it is a breath of fresh air to hear the simple three-piece continuo team of viol, theorbo and keyboard keeping things simple, tasteful and stylish.The remainder of this thoughtful and coherent programme is devoted to Purcell: “Here let my life” features Mena and Pierlot’s exquisite dialogue of voice and viol over a theorbo ground-bass; among the frequent reappearance of the recorders is a rendition of “Strike the viol” that feels unforced and lovely despite its quick pace. There is marvellous interplay between Mena and Guillon in the rarely performed duet “No, no resistance is but vain”, written for Thomas Southerne’s play The Maid’s Last Prayer. In recent years every disc by the Ricercar Consort has presented beguiling interpretations and there is no sign of the trend abating.