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John Blow - Venus & Adonis / Joshua · Finley · Blaze · Jacobs [Import]

John Blow , René Jacobs , Rosemary Joshua , Gerald Finley , Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment , Clare College Chapel Choir , Robin Blaze , Maria Cristina Kiehr , Christopher Josey , John Bowen , Mark Levy, Susan Sheppard, Elizabeth Kenny, Paula Chateauneuf Jonathan Brown , Catherine Mackintosh, Catherin Weiss, Nigel North, John Toll Timothy Brown Audio CD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)


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Product Details

  • Performer: John Blow, René Jacobs, Rosemary Joshua, Gerald Finley, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, et al.
  • Audio CD (July 13, 1999)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Harmonia Mundi Fr.
  • ASIN: B00000JKF9
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #689,018 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Venus & Adonis: Overture
2. Venus & Adonis: The Prologue: Cupid, Chorus (Cupid)
3. Venus & Adonis: The Prologue: Shepherds, Shepherdess
4. Venus & Adonis: The Prologue: Cupid (Cupid)
5. Venus & Adonis: The Prologue: Chorus, Shepherds, Shepherdess
6. Venus & Adonis: The Prologue: Cupid's Entry (Cupid)
7. Venus & Adonis: Act I: The Act Tune
8. Venus & Adonis: Act I: Adonis, Venus (Adonis, Venus)
9. Venus & Adonis: Act I: Hunter's Music, Venus (Venus)
10. Venus & Adonis: Act I: Adonis, Venus (Adonis, Venus)
11. Venus & Adonis: Act I: Huntsman, Adonis, Chorus (Adonis)
12. Venus & Adonis: Act I: Entry: A Dance By A Huntsmann
13. Venus & Adonis: Act II: Venus, Adonis (Venus, Adonis)
14. Venus & Adonis: Act II: Cupid Venus
15. Venus & Adonis: Act II: Cupid, Little Cupids (Cupid)
16. Venus & Adonis: Act II: Cupid (Cupid)
17. Venus & Adonis: Act II: A Dance Of Cupids
18. Venus & Adonis: Act II: Venus (Venus)
19. Venus & Adonis: Act II: Chorus Of The Graces
20. Venus & Adonis: Act II: The Graces' Dance
See all 27 tracks on this disc

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Here we have the very first English opera, with good gossip behind it to boot: John Blow composed the work for private performance at the English court, with King Charles II's longtime mistress Moll Davis as Venus and their illegitimate 9-year-old daughter playing Cupid. Venus and Adonis isn't just a historical curiosity, though: it's a full-scale Versailles-style opera in miniature, the near-equal of Purcell's more celebrated Dido and Aeneas (evidently composed for similar circumstances). Retired countertenor René Jacobs made quite a splash through the 1990s conducting early opera from Monteverdi to Mozart; the liveliness and dramatic sensitivity that made his reputation as a conductor are much in evidence here. Soprano Rosemary Joshua is excellent in many ways, but she occasionally lets her vibrato spread wide enough to carry her off-pitch; aside from that sporadic flaw, she is a superb Venus: sweet, sensuous, and, in her lament on Adonis's death, affecting without ever sounding overblown. Baritone Gerald Finley as Adonis nicely blends tenderness and virility; as Cupid, countertenor Robin Blaze is certainly no prepubescent girl (presumably Charlotte Church was unavailable) and the role lies just a bit high for him, but he sings with verve, wit, and genuine charm. --Matthew Westphal

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
The latest addition to the Harmonia Mundi Baroque collection is a splendid disk by the sadly under-performed English composer John Blow. Blow was ten years older than Purcell, who was not only his pupil and assistant organist, but also a friend with whom he exchanged early drafts of his scores and musical ideas. Venus and Adonis was written at the same time as the Purcell's, now more well-known, Dido and Aeneas; both works were written in response to King Charles II desire to imitate the music of the king of France, Louis XIV. In this recording, René Jacobs directs the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment led by, in my view, one of the best Baroque violin specialists today, Catherine Mackintosh. As is usual with this orchestra, the string sound in this recording is faultless throughout, with the two recorders and bassoon adding occasional colour in phrases and passages - such as the "Tune for Flutes" at the start of Act I. The title roles are sung by Rosemary Joshua and Gerald Finley respectively, and with their "Venus! Adonis!" routine at the beginning of Act I we are reminded how wonderfully affected the music of the English court was at this time. But Venus and Adonis do not appear until Act I which is almost eleven minutes into the fifty minute masque; before that, we hear the Prologue. The prologue, which does not exist in Purcell's Dido according to the informative programme notes, is dominated by Cupid who, in this recording is sung by counter-tenor Robin Blaze. Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a voice teacher and early music fan March 7, 2009
Format:Audio CD
A MASQUE FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT OF THE KING!

John Blow (1649-1708), in his official post as organist, was also expected to supply a great quantity of church music, royal odes and secular choral music to celebrate events at court. Consequently, he wrote very little for the professional stage. A notable exception is his opera 'Venus and Adonis', which he called "A Masque for the entertainment of the King".

It was first performed before the court at Oxford in 1681. Like Purcell's 'Dido and Aeneas', it is in fact a true opera, totally successful in concept, original in musical content and moving in the characterization of the protagonists. Borrowing the notion of the overture, the prologue and the instrumental dances from the French opera and juxtaposing them with the language of Italian music, Blow created his masterpiece and one of the summits of seventeenth century music.

John Blow's 'Venus and Adonis' is a work of intense beauty. Rene Jacobs leading the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and a distnguished roster of soloists brings in a flawless performance.

The story is an elaboration of the Greek-Roman tragedy of Venus and Adonis. Blow associates the theme of the Hunt(in which Adonis is killed) and its dangers to that of love and the wounds inflicted by Cupid's arrows. Using episodic gestures, Blow's music, thought to be way to progressive in its day, is indeed imaginative and well suited for the dramatic content. In one instant the music can be sparse,yet effective, dense, yet suitably simple.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Less Shakespearian, less tragic April 10, 2009
Format:Audio CD
The Puritans are gone. Good riddance and let's dance and play music and other games that were not particularly appreciated under the Cromwells, father nor son, both Senior and Junior. But it is not because the Stuarts are coming back from exile in France that we have to believe this music is nothing but a copy cat reproduction of French music in Versailles. Actually it has little to do with the precious and even excessively refined if not in a way effeminate and soft-bellied music of Lully.

In fact this very piece of music is directly inspired by the dramatic poetry of Shakespeare on the same theme and subject. It is also very close to Purcell's music, with maybe slightly less flexibility and virtuosity. It is more in the line of some official art, since the composer is the composer of the court.

But to reduce that music to some kind of allusion to the King and his mistresses and extra-marital daughters is just absurd. Music is by far richer than some hear-say rumors and gossips. But the change is quite important since in the first act it is Adonis who seduces Venus and pushes her a lot into yielding to his desire. That helps us a lot to accept him as a tenor where we would have expected an alto. As a tenor he sounds dominating as compared to Venus, and he is, at least in his words.

The second act is quite different. While Adonis goes to the hunt Venus tries to plan the enslaving of Adonis into a constant passion for her. But here Adonis arrives wounded from the hunt, in fact dying. He wishes more love from Venus but his state does not allow any of that and he dies and Venus mourns. There is none of the tragic fate Shakespeare had built in Adonis' refusal to yield to Venus' love.
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