First published in the Guardian on 28 September, 2017
A Fancy: Fantasy on English Airs & Tunes
Le Caravanserail/ Cuiller / Redmond (Harmonia Mundi)
London’s theatres were often more music than speech during the Restoration period. To dodge the censors, plays were stuffed full of songs and interludes, and composers like Matthew Locke — the Morricone of the English baroque — wrote music to set the scenes and tug at the heartstrings. This new album from French period-instrument ensemble Le Caravanserail is an enticing survey of the period, opening with a sumptuous Curtain Tune by Locke and taking in contributions from Gibbons, Grabu, John Blow, Henry Purcell and others. The instrumental playing under Bertrand Cuiller is supple and vivid, but the real star of the show here is soprano Rachel Redmond: she sings an Akeyrode drinking song with bright swagger and articulates Purcell’s lamenting O Solitude with soft, grainy intimacy. She’s a singer of real personality.