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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Harmonia Sacra and Complete Organ Music

Voluntary in G Major Z720
A Morning Hymn: Thou wakeful Shepherd Z198
A Divine Hymn: Lord, what is Man? Z192
Voluntary in D Minor Z718
The Aspiration: How long, great God Z189
In the black dismal Dungeon of Despair Z190
O solitude Z406
Voluntary in C Major Z714
The Blessed Virgin's Expostulation: Tell me...Z196
Voluntary in D Minor for Double Organ Z719
On our Saviour's Passion: The Earth trembled Z197
With sick and famished eyes Z200
Verse in F Major Z716
Full of wrath Z185
Voluntary on the Old 100th (A Major) Z721
Adam's Sleep: Sleep, Adam, Sleep Z195
An Evening Hymn: Now that the sun Z193
Davitt Moroney, organ
Jill Feldman, soprano
Rec. September 1992, Eglise Paroissial Saint-Miliau, Guimiliau, France.
ARCANA A 310 [69.20]
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This disc contains two sets of works by Henry Purcell, which, while unrelated, are nevertheless complementary. The six surviving organ pieces by Purcell are here played majestically by Davitt Moroney, well known for his harpsichord and organ recordings, especially of Bach and French composers. In addition, the ten known anthems for soprano and thorough bass are performed with organ accompaniment, and sung by Jill Feldman.

The overall tone of this recording is solemn and introspective. As can be heard in the first anthem, Thou wakeful Shepherd, Jill Feldman gives an emotional performance, eschewing any vocal pyrotechnics. She keeps her vibrato to a minimum, and the result is almost magical.

Sample 1: track 2 0’00"

As can be seen from the titles of some of these songs - such as In the black dismal Dungeon of Despair - the tone is not very gay. This is dark sacred music, and the lyrics are as desperate as they come:


In the black dismal dungeon of despair,
Pined with tormenting care,
Wracked with my fears,
Drowned in my tears,
With dreadful expectation of my doom
And certain horrid judgement soon to come:

Yet Feldman never sinks to the depths of despair and always manages to maintain a musicality that transcends the words.

Sample 2: track 6 0’00"

The organ works show a little-know side of Purcell. Listening in particular to the two versions of the Voluntary in D minor, one can hear a depth of music for organ that was rare even in his time. The second version, for double-manual organ, is a masterpiece, and is played very tastefully here.

Sample 2: track 10 0’00"

This is a very successful disc, which manages to combine two sets of works with similar tone to great effect. The use of organ accompaniment for the anthems highlights their dark tones, and the overall sound is very moving. Add to that the excellent playing by Davitt Moroney and Jill Feldman’s beautiful voice, and this is an essential recording in the Purcellian discography.

Kirk McElhearn



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