How far back does your musical relationship with Purcell go?

If I tell you it was the second concert the Gabrieli ever gave, that gives you an idea. We did some of the anthems and then  Love’s Goddess Sure Was Blind, that beautiful ode for Queen Mary. At that time we had a particularly promising young high tenor who hadn’t yet left Oxford, by the name of John Mark Ainsley. We didn’t keep him for very long (laughs). But Purcell has always been a core part of the repertoire and we’ve gone back to many pieces – I’m thinking of  The Fairy Queen.

Paul McCreesh. Photo © Andy Staples

What really speaks to you about Purcell’s music? 

The fact that he’s absolutely unique in the sense that he is so English. He embraces all aspects of French style and Italian style and yet he somehow comes up with something completely his own. This is the man who wrote the greatest theatre music of the late 17th century, who wrote some of the most amazing sacred music of that period as well. He’s also an outstandingly influential composer, both in new forms of string music, but also looking...