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Odes to Saint Cecilia
Giovanni Battista DRAGHI (c.1640-1708)
From harmony, from heav’nly harmony (1687) [40:06]
John BLOW (1649-1708)
The glorious day is come (1691) [31:21]
Le Blanc (soprano)
Joseph Cornwell (tenor)
Michael Chance (counter-tenor)
Jozic Koc (bass) (Blow)
Richard Wistreich (bass) (Draghi)
The Parley of Instruments/Peter Holman
The Playford Consort/Richard Wistreich
rec. November 1994
HELIOS CDH55257 [71:43]
is another of the Helios re-release series that restores
staples of the Hyperion catalogue to a lower price bracket.
This Saint Cecilia’s Day ode diptych was recorded in 1994
and makes its welcome reappearance now.
Draghi’s work that has always commanded the greater interest.
Partly this is because of its own significant intrinsic merits
of course but also because the influence he was to exert
over Purcell. Draghi set the Dryden text that Handel was
to use for his own ode setting many years later – the one
with the gorgeous setting of What passion cannot Muusick
raise and quell – and did so with consistent linguistic
and musical interest. The opening symphony is stately and
controlled with a resiliency that attests to his eloquent
control of stylistic matters. Soprano Suzie Le Blanc copes
very well with the demanding divisions in When Nature
underneath a heap – those melismas on “arise” are indeed
very characteristically Purcellian and we can be fairly sure
that the younger man documented Draghi’s Italian style with
close study. Michael Chance sings with considerable distinction
throughout. Draghi’s setting is not shy; it’s laid out for
pretty large forces and he makes few concessions to technical
problems in some of the arias. We can hear as well that the
wind writing is pert and apt – and in this performance they
are well-pointed comments and relished with verve. The finale, As
from the pow’r of sacred days, sees the full force of
Draghi’s inspiration. Naturally Purcell’s word setting proved
to be far superior to that of Draghi and there are certainly
isolated movements that pass unmemorably. But this is a vibrant
work and well worth getting to know.
companion by Blow is rather more conventional and in that
sense perhaps less obviously interesting. The glorious
day is come was composed in 1691, a few years later than
the Draghi ode. It’s more of an extrovert work, more public
and showy especially in the opening Symphony and is rather
more compact as well – lasting thirty minutes to Draghi’s
forty. To condemn it as less interesting is perhaps unfair.
Blow’s writing is unfailingly intelligent and his interweaving
lines in The spheres, those instruments divine is
brilliantly accomplished. And first the trumpet’s part affords
plenty of opportunities for Joseph Cornwell to flex dextrous
tenorial muscles. Perhaps the most intriguing movement is Excess
of pleasure now crowd on apace which has a series of
almost “pop” cadences in its melodic profile.
yes, it’s unfair on the Blow to judge it poorly against the
Draghi. Both are fine works, well performed if a trifle sedately.
The annotations are similarly fine and the recorded sound
catches the intimate as well as the grand statements with
clarity and warmth.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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