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David's Lamentation over Saul and Jonathan. Ode for St Cecilia's Day The Charms of Harmony Display.- first version.
Patrick Burrowes (boy soprano), William Purefoy (alto), Andrew Watts (counter-tenor), Richard Edgar-Wilson (tenor), Michael George (bass-baritone), Choir of New College Oxford, The Hanover Band/Graham Lea-Cox.
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There's a nice touch to the performances here, for the players and singers involved are reading from facsimiles of Boyce's original manuscript parts, and the fact that occasional graffiti or comments are apparently to be found on them brings home to us that not much has changed in 300 years when it comes to players' views of either conductors or composers. The version of the Lamentation is the Dublin one of 1744 fashioned eight years after it was originally performed in London for the Apollo Society, whose prime mover was Boyce's teacher Maurice Greene. It's not a long work but one of great depth and dramatic effect with some of its best music reserved for the chorus, such as 'How are the Mighty fallen!', the aria for counter-tenor 'Israel is fall'n, is undone' (the words are by John Lockman), and the duet 'Sad Israel' for male alto and tenor. The inevitability of Handel's influence (this is Messiah time and Dublin too) is felt in the tenor aria 'How cou'd Conscience hush her Stings'. You will need to follow the text as clarity of diction is far from satisfactory but the chorus blends splendidly, and, as authenticity demands, there's not a female voice anywhere among either soloists or choir. Somehow the power of the middle and low registers of Andrew Watts' counter-tenor lacks penetration at times but Boyce's imaginative writing for the orchestra is exploited to the full by the excellent Hanover Band. The CD ends with three short numbers from the Lamentation as they appeared in the original London version. The aria 'On Thee, Mount Gilboa' is vocally an improvement in this form for tenor on the earlier version for counter-tenor, although the omission of flutes in the later version becomes a cause for regret.

The Ode (possibly written in 1737 or 1738) is quite another matter in terms of mood, nothing like so gloomy. It gets a terrific kick-start with the addition to the band of trumpet and drums in the Overture at a brisk and lively tempo. Then follows a courtly minuet, played with poised phrasing, and an exquisite trio in which string section leaders shine. Highlights include an opening chorus which alternates homophonic and highly contrapuntal textures, a colourful trio for boy treble, male alto and bass-baritone excellently sung by all three including St Paul's chorister Patrick Burrowes, a lengthy but punchy call to arms by Michael George in a fiercesomely difficult aria sung con bravura, and a jolly choral finale.

This CD is the third in the series ASV are putting together of choral works by Boyce; a fourth to come later this year will be the Pindaric Ode and a late Court Ode. The one reviewed here was recorded at the Old Market in Hove where the Hanover Band has its home.

Christopher Fifield

See also review by Philip Scowcroft

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