> BOYCE Pindar's Ode Hanover Band ASV CDGAU232 [JW]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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William BOYCE (1711- 1779)
Pindar’s Ode
New Year Ode 1774

Patrick Burrowes (boy soprano)
Andrew Johnson (boy soprano)
Christopher Josey (high tenor)
Charles Daniels (tenor)
Michael George (bass-baritone)
Choir of New College Oxford – director Edward Higginbotham
Hanover Band/Graham Lea-Cox (conductor)
Rec 2001?
ASV CD GAU 232 [74.20]

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Following on the heels of their outstanding recording of David’s Lamentation over Saul and Jonathan (ASV CD GAU 208) [review] comes this disc of Boyce’s occasional odes.

Pindar’s Ode of 1741 is recorded in the Dublin version – a revision of the Apollo Academy first performances – which lends greater reserves of colour to a score couched very much in the conservatism of the high-Baroque. Boyce’s inherent dramatic impulse is very much in evidence here – his response to Walter Harte’s translation of Pindar’s First Pythian Ode is alive to the flair of the text and to its potential for word painting. Allied to his very real melodic gifts Boyce was a sensitive word setter for which he has historically received much less than his due.

The conductor Graham Lea-Cox outlines his performance imperatives in a well-argued note – he meets head-on the debate over vocal timbres in a work such as this and has "sought voices that reflect and complement the timbres of the period instruments used in the orchestra." Implicit here is a concession that the voice types chosen, as he admits, will not be universally admired and this mainly centres on his use of a boy soprano and a high tenor. They certainly add colour and variety to the vocal texture but are nevertheless problematic. In execution of trills and in matters of upper voice strain both voice types suffer and intonation is sometimes wayward whereas the orchestra is always a sensitive and trenchant contributor – listen to the strings’ attack and the layering and dynamics in Charles Daniels’ arioso In Fires of Hell and also in its following aria where the skipping and rushing of the flames is excellently evoked by Boyce and orchestra alike. The best singing comes from Daniels and from Michael George whose despatch of The Pious Marriner is affecting and sensitive and one of the highlights of the disc. The choir contribute expertly in the compact and eventful final chorus.

The New Year Ode of 1774 is, if anything, a more concise and dramatically cogent piece. Its two-movement overture is in the contemporary "Symphony Style" and the work as a whole admits of superb elisions – especially the movement from recitative to the arioso And all that Pomp, really splendidly sung by Michael George and a sign, once again, that Boyce’s powers were ever alert and uncompromised by years of writing occasional ceremonial odes such as this. The aria Say, why do millions bleed at thy command is a sturdy piece, well sung with a softened tone by Christopher Josey. The melodic finesse, the dramatic unity and real accomplishment of the New Year Ode is exemplified in the final aria Myriads they see excellently despatched by the confident boy soprano Andrew Johnson and a concluding chorus where the New College choir really sing out to splendid effect.

Whilst not as consistently impressive as that earlier recording by these forces (David’s Lamentation is a very special work) this disc is yet more evidence of Boyce’s high status in eighteenth century music making.

Jonathan Woolf


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