The Fairy Queen: Hark! the ech'ing air a triumph sings
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, Vol. 1, CD 5 track 11
It has been a long time since Augustine's unfinished treatise. Strangely it is the Fairy Queen--a more pagan representative could not be found--that, making good use of her introduction, presents a hitherto undocumented expansion of the long tradition of European singing. Her imitation of a trumpet is also a development for the instrumentalists. No longer imitators and becoming increasingly self-sufficient, the now standardized and thus more cohesive force of players can look forward to exerting an exceptional influence on our concept of musical line. Furthermore, because she is paired with the weepy Dido, Henry's happy fairy does him the favor of vouching for his emotional range. (For a fuller English flavor our scholars would have done well to include Purcell's bawdy tunes.)
Much of the success of this composition and performance comes from the simple arrangement of listening to the trumpet first. In this recording we can hear inspired moments in the continuo that, with Purcell's encouragement, imitate our soloist imitating our trumpet. Reminding us that a little can go a long way, the trumpet only plays a few bars at the start and end of the piece.
What I like about this motto aria is the V-like shape of the theme. Fitting for a victory cheer and trumpet obbligato, the listener traces the left descent of the V with eighth notes and then the right ascent with sixteenth notes.
Also read a short biography
of Henry Purcell.