Long renowned for their performances of the music of Henry Purcell, Gabrieli will perform King Arthur, the composer’s great 17th century patriotic opera, in a new performing edition by Dr Christopher Suckling and Paul McCreesh on 30 October at 7.30pm at St John’s Smith Square. Depicting the battles between King Arthur’s Britons and the Saxon Invaders, this 1691 setting of John Dryden’s poetry is full of dynamic dance rhythms and lyrical song, including the justly famous ‘Fairest Isle’ and ‘Frost Scene’.
Conductor Paul McCreesh leads a virtuosic consort cast: Anna Dennis, Mhairi Lawson, Rowan Pierce (sopranos); Jeremy Budd and James Way (tenors); Marcus Farnsworth and Ashley Riches (baritone/bass-baritone) in one of Purcell’s most vivid and imaginative scores.
The concert also coincides with the release of Gabrieli’s latest recording of Purcell’s King Arthur 1691 on Winged Lion on 25 October 2019.
This production (and CD release) represents the culmination of decades of research and practical performance experience:
strings play with a newly rediscovered bow-hold at low, ‘French’ pitch (A=392Hz) transforming articulation;
wind instruments employ coarser, historically appropriate reeds, resulting in a more martial sound;
two truly natural valve-less, hole-less trumpets, commissioned specifically for the project, perform with a lost historical technique, producing playing of remarkable lyricism and delicacy;
and the final (and long lost) closing chorus of Act V is reconstructed from extant music and given a new, appropriately stylish text, ensuring a satisfactory close to the musical sequence overall.
A far cry from the musty scholarship which emanates from some corners of the ‘period performance’ world, Gabrieli’s rigorous, innovative approach to this great patriotic opera re-invigorates the work, allowing it to speak compellingly and on purely musical terms to a modern audience.