Purcell: Fantasias Pour Violes

Album cover art for upc 722056259125
Label: ATMA
Catalog: ACD22591
Format: CD

Wholenote Discoveries - July 2009
Henry Purcell composed his fifteen Fantasias and In nomines just after becoming the organist at Westminster Abbey. Composed for consorts of three to seven viols, they are remarkable in their contrapuntal fluidity and surprising in their occasional dissonance in even modern day terms. They are played with acuity and sensitivity here by the gifted Montreal viol ensemble, Les Voix Humaines, on historic instruments with a local connection. Here's a bit of background on the instruments themselves. The Hart House Viols are one of so many hidden treasures lurking in the corners of Toronto buildings. Purchased by the Massey Foundation in 1929, Vincent Massey had the set of viols housed at U of T's Hart House and in 1935 they became the property of that illustrious institution. In 2008, in a stroke of musical brilliance, Susie Napper and Les Voix Humaines had the viols refurbished to playing condition for this wonderful release. This winning combination of compositions, instruments and performers is breathtaking. Of note is Fantasia V in Bb major Z.736 for its twists of rhythm and tempo. In Fantasia IX in a minor Z.740 the aural colours are subtle and intriguing, especially in the slower sections. The treble viol holds middle C throughout the Fantasia upon one note in F major, Z. 745 creating a sonic foundation for the other viols to play around – a kind of early music forerunner of Terry Riley’s In C. Les Voix Humaines prove themselves yet again to be world class musicians. This is a very enjoyable musical experience. Tiina Kiik

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