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John Ernest GALLIARD (c.1687-1749)
Pan and Syrinx: An Opera (1718, rev. 1726)* [57:47]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Timon of Athens: The Masque of Cupid and Bacchus (1695)** [19:21]
* Syrinx - Johanette Zomer (soprano); * Pan – Marc Pantus (baritone); * Diana – Nicola Wemyss (mezzo-soprano); * Sylvan – Mitchell Sandler; * Nymph – Richard Zook; ** First Nymph - Pauline Graham; ** Second Nymph - Nicola Wemyss; ** Follower of Cupid – René Steur; ** Cupid - Penni Clarke; ** Bacchus - Marc Pantus; ** Follower of Bacchus - Mitchell Sandler; ** 2nd Follower of Bacchus - Hugo Naessens; ** 3rd Follower of Bacchus - Richard Zook; ** 4th Follower of Bacchus - Joost van der Linden;
Musica ad Rhenum/Jed Wentz
rec. 25-27 August 2004, Muzikcentrum Vredenburg, Utrecht, Netherlands.  DDD.
Booklet with notes and texts in English.
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 93776 [77:08]

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Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Dioclesian (complete) (1691)+ [92:47]
Timon of Athens: Masque (1695)++ [19:29]
+ Catherine Pierard (soprano); +/++ James Bowman (alto); +/++ John Mark Ainsley (tenor); +/++ Michael George (bass, Bacchus in Timon); ++ Cupid – Iestyn Davis (treble); ++ Christopher de la Hoyde (treble);
Collegium Musicum 90/Richard Hickox
rec. 2-4 September 1993 and 26-28 September1994, St Jude’s Church, London NW11. DDD.
Booklet with notes and texts in English, French and German.
CHANDOS CHACONNE CHAN0569/70 [46:27+65:49]
Experience Classicsonline

Pan and Syrinx is a real discovery – not only did I not know the work – hardly surprising when this is the first recording and the Oxford Companion to Music makes no mention of its composer, though the Shorter Grove does – I had never even heard of John Ernest (né Johann Ernst) Galliard.

This is yet another feather in the cap of Jed Wentz, who is rapidly building a reputation through his recordings for Brilliant Classics and Challenge Classics.  Kevin Sutton thought his recent recording of Telemann’s Twelve Fantasias for flute “at Brilliant Classics’ super budget price ... a steal; ... one of the most ear-catching and imaginative performances that I have come across this year [which] will merit much repeated listening.” (Brilliant Classics 93440 – see review).

The contents of this CD were, in fact, originally issued in a 2-CD set with Purcell’s Dido and Æneas, a version of the latter which Christopher Howell thought fresh and attractive, if hardly the greatest ever (Brilliant Classics 92464 – see review).  CH did, however, rate the coupling more highly, especially the Masque of Cupid, so it was wise of Brilliant Classics to offer those pieces separately, especially when Wentz’s Dido has also been released separately on SACD (92538 – see review).  The original 2-CD set on 92464 remains available at around £7 for those who want the coupling.

To have a composer with the name of a dance seems almost too good to be true.  That someone of his undoubted talent should have fallen out of musical memory is even more incredible until one remembers what a wealth of foreign talent found success in London in the early eighteenth-century – 1718, for example, the year of the first version of Pan and Syrinx, saw the first performance of Handel’s Acis and Galatea at Cannons.  When native composers such as Avison and Garth, especially the latter, have needed the advocacy of recent recordings on the Divine Art label in order to be rightfully re-established, I wonder how much more musical talent from the period remains to be discovered?

I can’t pretend that Galliard’s music represents the work of genius, especially by comparison with the Purcell masque which follows, but it is very competent and attractive and it certainly deserves to have been rediscovered.  I have a sneaking feeling that Handel remembered the final chorus when he wrote ‘Haste thee nymph’ for L’Allegro.  Yet, though highly successful in 1718, the revised and enlarged version of 1726, the one employed for this recording, ran for a mere four performances.

The bare bones of the plot in Ovid’s Metamorphoses are fairly slender – the usual ‘god loves nymph, nymph rejects him and is transformed’.  Though the dramatic metamorphosis of Daphne into a laurel tree was more favoured by artists and inspired one of the earliest operas, Peri’s la Dafne, that of Syrinx is particularly appropriate for opera, since Pan fashioned a handful of the reeds into which she had been transformed into the first musical instrument, the pan pipes:
 

Now while the lustful God, with speedy pace,
Just thought to strain her in a strict embrace,
He fill’d his arms with reeds, new rising on the place.
And while he sighs, his ill success to find,
The tender canes were shaken by the wind;
And breath’d a mournful air, unheard before;
That much surprizing Pan, yet pleas’d him more.
Admiring this new musick, Thou, he said,
Who canst not be the partner of my bed,
At least shall be the confort of my mind:
And often, often to my lips be joyn’d.
He form’d the reeds, proportion’d as they are,
Unequal in their length, and wax’d with care,
They still retain the name of his ungrateful fair. [Metamorphoses I, 705ff.]
 

Here the Dryden translation somewhat paraphrases the original in which Pan sees his music-making as a perpetual dialogue with Syrinx : ‘hoc mihi colloquium tecum’ dixisse ‘manebit’.  [I.710]

Surprisingly, Galliard’s opera doesn’t make much of this musical theme, though Pan’s soliloquy (tr.31) provides dolefully beautiful music to evoke the ‘plaintive Sounds’ of the ‘wondrous Reeds’ which shall ‘to future times/Transmit her Name & Praise.’  The operatic version does, however, flesh out the story in other ways, introducing a fairly considerable part for Diana, Syrinx’s protectress and several dances for her nymphs and swains.

Wentz’s direction is stylish and secure and the soloists are all in good voice.  Inevitably, Johanette Zomer’s Syrinx outshines the others, since she has the best music and she is capable of sounding both powerful and gentle, scornful and delicate, as appropriate.  ‘How sweet the warbling Linnet sings’ (tr.25) is particularly beautifully sung, but Marc Pantus’s Pan is not far behind.  Pan is, of course, usually presented as an ugly god – the word panic deriving from the natural reaction to seeing him – but Galliard gives him some attractive music to sing and Pantus delivers it well.  After Syrinx’s aria ‘Go leave me ‘tis in vain’ (track 8) Pan’s reflective ‘How insolently Coy!’ (tr.9) and his aria ‘Gentle Cupid aid my pleasure’ (tr. 10) have much the same effect as Polyphemus’s ‘Ruddier than the cherry’ in Acis and Galatea in establishing a degree of sympathy for the character.  Pantus also makes a characterful Bacchus in the Purcell coupling.

Nicola Wemyss sings Diana well and the smaller roles are also well taken.  The Brilliant Classics website refers to period pronunciation, and the booklet lists a ‘Restauration [sic] English coach’ but, mercifully, this futile exercise is not carried too far – just as well, when we have no secure knowledge of how English was pronounced in earlier centuries:  the attempt too often comes out as some kind of Mummerset.  Here, it’s limited to such small matters as pronouncing the second syllable of linnet with the neutral vowel schwa [Ə]. Otherwise, though not all the singers are Anglophones, their diction presents no problems.

Everything is to scale: the choir in the lively finale (tr.38) consists of twelve singers (some of whom double as soloists in one work or the other) and the orchestra is proportionately small, never overwhelming the singers.  The recorder accompaniment of ‘How Sweet the Linnet’ (tr.25) is especially delectable.

The recording is good.  Brilliant Classics may have an SACD version up their sleeves, as in the case of their Dido and Æneas, but no-one is likely to be disappointed with the CD recording.

There is, of course, no competition in Pan and Syrinx.  For the Purcell masque, however, there is very strong competition from a distinguished set of soloists and Collegium Musicum 90 under Richard Hickox, coupled on two CDs with the complete Dioclesian on Chandos CHAN0569/70, as above, or with just the masque from Dioclesian on CHAN0558 – effectively, the latter option consists of the second, better-filled disc of the 2-CD set.  Both options are available on CD or as lossless or mp3 downloads from Chandos’s theclassicalshop.net. 

Heard on its own and even in comparison with Hickox, Wentz’s performance of the Purcell is more than adequate, with singing, direction and recording on a par with those of Pan and Syrinx.  In fact, honours are about even between Wentz and Hickox in the Timon masque.  If Wentz’s adult soloists sing more securely than Hitchcock’s trebles, the latter sound more ‘appropriate’.  I particularly liked the more prominent ‘Symphony of pipes imitating the chirping of birds’ in Wentz’s version of the opening number ‘Hark how the Songsters of the Grove’ (tr.40 = tr.20 of the Chandos recording.)  Hickox’s instrumental group is slightly larger, but never out of proportion.  Tempi are broadly similar, both performances are very entertaining and both are very truthfully recorded.  If I opt for the Hickox, the preference is surprisingly marginal.

In a sense, too, comparisons are more than odious, since there is no other recording of either Pan and Syrinx or the complete Dioclesian – if you want both, duplication of the masque from Timon is almost inevitable.  There is a budget-price 2-CD Deller Consort version of the Dioclesian masque, coupled with Dido and Æneas (Vanguard ATMCD1521) and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra offer a suite from Dioclesian (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi mid-price 82876 60157 2 or budget-price 05472 77858 2, with different couplings) but there is no other complete version of the whole work or the masque, nor is any future version likely to outshine the Hickox.  I am trying to point to some of the greatest achievements of Richard Hickox and Vernon Handley in my monthly Download Roundups and rapidly realising that Hickox is, if that were possible, an even greater loss than Handley, able to turn his hand to Purcell as readily as to advocate the music of neglected twentieth-century composers such as Kenneth Leighton.

If you really must opt for one or the other, I must admit that Purcell’s Dioclesian music, whether the complete work or the masque, rather outshines the Galliard and I would have to jettison Pan and Syrinx, most reluctantly, in favour of the all-Purcell recording for my desert island.  But can you really turn down 77 minutes of delectable music for a mere £5?

The Brilliant Classics booklet is well presented and informative; it would hardly disgrace a full-price issue except for some occasional mis-lineation of the text and the absence of track- and work-timings.  French- and German-speaking listeners would, of course, be better served by Chandos’s tri-lingual notes and texts.  I need hardly add that the Chandos booklet is even more professional and informative.  Both covers are attractively illustrated, albeit with judicially-placed text obliterating some of the nudity in Henrik van Balen’s Banquet of the Gods on the Chandos cover; most of the very section which Chandos censors is reproduced as the cover of Hyperion’s recent issue of Handel’s Parnasso in Festa (CDA67701/2).

May we now have some more of Galliard’s music?  The Shorter Grove mentions his all-sung English operas Calypso and Telemachus (1712) and Circe (1719) as unsuccessful, but they were up against powerful competition, not only from Handel.  His eight pantomimes were much more successful – Grove singles out The Rape of Proserpine (1727), which might be a good place to continue his revival on record.  Perhaps Brilliant Classics already have such plans in hand for Musica ad Rhenum and Jed Wentz; I note that they have recently released an SACD of these performers in Handel’s Apollo e Dafne (93073).  Otherwise, perhaps Chandos or Hyperion would oblige.
 
Brian Wilson
 



 


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