Many recordings of older music have disappeared under the weight of historically informed performances but still should be cherished for their fine singing.

Kirsten Flagstad Kirsten Flagstad. Photo © Decca

On an Eloquence reissue, Neville Marriner conducts six JS Bach Cantatas with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in smooth, modern instrument renditions. The four sacred cantatas (BWV 56, 82, 159 and 170) feature Dame Janet Baker and the distinctive, velvet bass-baritone of John Shirley-Quirk (singers I grew up listening to). Baker’s unmistakable timbre and Philip Ledger’s organ woodwind registration make the central aria of BWV 170 a special treat. Bach’s secular “Coffee” and “Peasant” Cantatas are sung by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and his fourth wife, soprano Júlia Várady (recorded in 1982): heavier voices than we are accustomed to today. 

Secondly comes a set of Henry Purcell’s semi-opera The Fairy Queen, based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This edition was prepared by Benjamin...

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