Purcell: The Fairy Queen 1692 / Sampson, Daniels, McCreesh, Gabrieli Consort

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Purcell’s The Fairy Queen is based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a play not frequently performed in the late 17th century, nor very well regarded (“the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life” - Samuel Pepys’ diary, 1662). Despite this, the play would go on to work well within an opera, as the characters of Pyramus and Thisbe could conjure up singing and dancing accomplices. Purcell’s masterful composition, Gabrieli’s first-class performance, and McCreesh’s superb interpretation demonstrate why their recordings are seen as some of the best in classical music today.

Gabrieli are world-renowned interpreters of great vocal and instrumental repertoire, from the Renaissance to the present day. Founded by Paul McCreesh in 1982, Gabrieli have both outgrown and remained true to their original identity: whilst the ensemble’s repertoire has expanded beyond any expectation, McCreesh’s ever-questioning spirit, expressive musicianship and a healthy degree of iconoclasm remain constant and are reflected in the ensemble’s dynamic performances. Gabrieli’s repertoire includes major works of the oratorio tradition, virtuosic a cappella programmes and mold-breaking reconstructions of music for historical events. Above all, Gabrieli aims to create thought-provoking performances which stand out from the crowd.


How to pick highlights when everything is a highlight? The First Music introduces us to the string band’s crisp, punchy execution, incising phrasing and tight ensemble. The natural trumpets, especially built for this recording, blaze out triumphantly in the Second Music’s Overture. Further on, they share the limelight with chorus and timpani in the gloriously Handelian “Hail Great Parent of us All”.

By contrast, there are the exquisite recorders and theorbo in the delicate, charming “Symphony in Imitation of Birds”, and the mournful nymph accompanied by a consoling oboe in the air “Oh Let Me Ever, Ever Weep”. Only slightly less melancholy is the gorgeous “If Love’s a Sweet Passion” for nymph, chorus and fawn; the string playing here is as entrancing as the singing. Then there are those brilliant comic moments, like the drunk blindfolded poet tormented by fairies. Or Coridon and Mopsa lustily singing “Now the Maids and the Men are making of Hay” to the frenzied strumming of guitar.


There’s an air of generosity and joy about this recording, as well as a communicative, engaging sense of theatrical narrative that works on its own terms. Reference is made in the thorough and splendid booklet notes which is the work of several hands – and is once again festooned with black and white photographs of a ‘cow and leaf’ nature – regarding the placement of the Chaconne to end the work but that won’t come as a surprise for those who have John Eliot Gardiner’s recording.

This is an elegant, refined and strongly realized performance. Earthier alternatives exist...but if you follow McCreesh and his forces you will lack for little in polish and affect, in the truest sense.

--MusicWeb International

Product Description:

  • Release Date: April 10, 2020

  • Catalog Number: SIGCD615

  • UPC: 635212061527

  • Label: Signum Classics

  • Number of Discs: 2

  • Period: Baroque

  • Composer: Henry Purcell

  • Conductor: Paul McCreesh

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Gabrieli Consort

  • Performer: Charles Daniels, Rowan Pierce, Anna Dennis, Ashley Riches, Jeremy Budd, Carolyn Sampson, James Way, Roderick Williams, Mhairi Lawson


  1. The Fairy Queen 1692

    Composer: Henry Purcell

    Ensemble: Gabrieli Consort, Gabrieli Players

    Performer: Anna Dennis (Soprano), Mhairi Lawson (Soprano), Rowan Pierce (Soprano), Carolyn Sampson (Soprano), Jeremy Budd (High Tenor), Charles Daniels (High Tenor, Tenor), James Way (High Tenor, Tenor), Roderick Williams (Baritone), Ashley Riches (Bass-Baritone)

    Conductor: Paul McCreesh