Les Voix humaines Consort of Viols :
Margaret Little, Mélisande Corriveau, Felix Deak & Susie Napper

Henry Purcell’s complete Fantasias for 3 & 4 viols with dances from Fairy Queen.

When His Majesty Charles II returned from exile in 1660, England was ready to put the bitter taste of Cromwell’s Puritanism behind it. The country was ripe for drastic change and the hope of a return of the simple pleasures that had been proscribed during the eleven years of civil war. Prince Charles, arrived home from the continent in a bluster of wine, women and song! The kind of song, however, was new to the Fairest Isle!

Under the influence of his distant cousin, the young Louis XIV, and enamoured of the latest, most fashionable continental musical styles, Charles established his own “24 violons”  and modernized his “private music” avoiding those old-fashioned viols he now despised! The greatest composers might learn to adapt their ditties to the all- too-stylish French dance suites and chicer-than-thou Italian sonatas, but there were those who regarded the noble, English, viol “Fantasia” or “Fancy” to be amongst the greatest of musical forms.

Henry Purcell’s 16 Fantasias are the perfect example of a melding of the old and new. The exquisitely balanced sound of consorted strings (from three to seven viols) is peppered with virtuosic Italianate passages, operatic recitativo sections and quasi French dances designed to please all ears!

This programme intersperses the Fantasias with dance movements from Purcell’s opera The Fairy Queen and concludes with an instrumental version of “Dido’s Lament” from Dido and Aeneas, a fitting end to a concert of the last, sublime English consort music!

Available at ATMA Classique: OH HENRY!

Audio excerpt :  Henry Purcell: Fantasia #6 in F