by Nicholas Jones
In his short life, Henry Purcell (1659-1695) composed hundreds of extraordinarily expressive songs. It was a rare treat this weekend to hear some of the best of them grippingly performed by the dramatic soprano Malina Rauschenfels.
I heard Rauschenfels in the acoustically vibrant sanctuary of Lakewood Presbyterian Church, with Peter Lekx on baroque violin, David Ellis on gamba, and Paula Maust on harpsichord (a second performance was to be the next night at St. Alban’s in Cleveland Heights). The program was presented jointly by Burning River Baroque and by a group named hūmAnómali (the name was not explained in the otherwise very informative program materials). Rauschenfels has played beautifully on the baroque cello in previous Burning River concerts, but her decision to perform as a vocalist gives these programs an extra focus and intensity.
One of Purcell’s talents was to elevate relatively undistinguished poetry—by, for example, Nahum Tate, who is known mostly for giving Shakespeare’s King Lear a happy ending. Purcell’s daring song settings are astonishingly modern: he is the true precursor to Benjamin Britten, of whom we are hearing a great deal this centennial year. [Read more…]