Essential Purcell CD
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Airs de "Odes and Welcome Songs", "Secular solo Songs", Anthems and Services"... / B. Bonney - S. Gritton - J. Bowman - M. Chance - R. Covey-Crump - M. Padmore - Ch. Daniels - M. George... - The Choir of New College - King's Consort, dir. Robert King
The "Essential" Purcell? Well, you could get a bunch of critics to argue about that for a few days, but in the meantime, here is a sampler of highlights from the King's Consort's three admirable Purcell series: the Complete Odes and Welcome Songs, Complete Anthems and Services, and Complete Secular Solo Songs. There are, of course, some of Purcell's most-performed pieces (which probably are "essential"): Dido's Lament from Dido and Aeneas, "Sound the trumpet" from Come, ye sons of Art, Rejoice in the Lord always (the "Bell Anthem," named for the string figure at the opening that sounds like pealing bells), the gently patriotic "Fairest isle, all isles excelling" (sung by a miscast James Bowman), and a selection from the funeral music for Queen Mary. There are also some delightful surprises--particularly among the little-known secular songs and church music. The plaintive "O fair Cedaria" gets a lovely performance by Barbara Bonney (a singer not usually associated with Purcell); tenor Rogers Covey-Crump (possibly the ideal high tenor for Purcell) sings the enchanting "If music be the food of love"; the church anthems "Let mine eyes run down with tears" and "Remember not, O Lord, our offences" have some startling harmonies as daring as any Monteverdi ever wrote. If you're unfamiliar with Purcell, this reasonably priced disc is a good place to start exploring without a big initial investment. --Matthew Westphal
Top Customer Reviews
This is one of those discs. It even gets ten out of ten for price: this is one of those budget-priced "sampler" cd's, which, although all the tracks are full-length and unedited, it is geared towards selling the many other releases of Purcell by Robert King.
However don't let this put you off: the running order has been compiled with due care and attention. This album stands up as a classic in its own right.
There is nothing lesser-known about Henri Purcell who,after all is a giant of the whole barque era. His oeuvre is so rich that it would probably take me years to get my head around many different styles he worked in but this CD is a good start for a somebody like me who simply needs some guidance where to start: "Hyperion" has released three series of complete Purcell works and here they presented choice from twenty-five various recordings.
The long and exhausting list of artists here is star-studded: Barbara Bonney, James Bowman, Gillian Fisher, Charles Daniels, Rogers Covey-Crump, Susan Gritton, Mark Padmore... there is something for everybody but I must point at the direction of my beloved Michael Chance who must have been one of my all-time favorite singers in any genre (after all,he is the guy responsible for my "classical bug") and here he shines in a heavenly duet with James Bowman,truly magnificent showpiece for two counter-tenors titled "Sound the trumpet" dating from 1694 royal celebration.
It is such a rich compilation that with repeated listening I am sure to find always different favorites.
The instrumental sound is tuneful, attuned and in tune; we have long left behind us vinegary strings and approximate intonation, so there is a powerful sense of period appropriateness which enhances these lovely melodies. I'm not quite sure why everything here is vocal, insofar as Purcell wrote some wonderful instrumental music and I would have included something from his viol fantasias and the famous Chacony but any interested punter may acquire these on a bargain label issue.
My favourite piece here is the magnificent, eight-part anthem "Hear My Prayer" which builds and builds over three minutes, culminating in a stunning discord. I have played this disc many times since I bought it so many years ago and can happily attest that it really does include those vocal works which must be called "essential" for a proper appreciation of Purcell; the CD does what it says on the tin.