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William Boyces collection of Eight Symphonies was published in 1760, though all save one were actually composed as overtures between 1739 and 1756. Until recently, Boyces posthumous reputation rested on his church music and choral anthems such as Heart of Oak
, but in his day he was also active in the London theatre world and these "Symphonys" are representative examples of the vogue for Italianate sinfonias (three movements: fast-slow-fast) and French overtures (a slow introduction-fugue-one or more dance movements). Like many other capable British composers, Boyce was ultimately overshadowed by the commanding presence of Handel, and it is thanks in no small part to the period-instrument movement that the considerable charms of his instrumental output are now better appreciated. Melodious, light of texture and enlivened with sprightly gavottes, minuets and jigs, these works need the sympathetic advocacy of groups such as Christopher Hogwoods Academy of Ancient Music to bring them back to life. Like Trevor Pinnock
before him, Hogwood grasps the musics innate gracefulness: both versions match tempos almost exactly throughout, but Hogwoods rhythmic precision allows more space to appreciate the instrumental textures, while his substitution of organ for harpsichord in places give the continuo more variety. Both recordings of this delightful music, however, are self-recommending.--Mark Walker