> BOYCE Ode for St Cecilia CDGAU200 [PS]: Classical Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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William BOYCE (1711-79)
Ode For St Cecilia’s Day

Soloists, New College Oxford Choir; Hanover Band, cond. Graham Lea-Cox


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William Boyce (1711-79) achieved much as a composer for the church, stage, orchestra and the home and this despite the supposedly stifling influence of Handel on native British music for much of Boyce’s life.

This Ode, recorded for the first time (apart from its first overture, published separately) is an earlyish work, dating from 1739, and is a substantial one, lasting 68 minutes. It was first performed in London, then in Dublin in 1741, when several of the singers who were to perform in the premiere of Messiah a year later took part. The soloists on this splendidly recorded disc are the talented boy soprano Patrick Burrowes, who is assigned the role of St. Cecilia herself towards the end (plus another aria earlier on), two altos, William Purefoy and Andrew Watts, the latter taking the role of a "high tenor" in the Dublin performance, the tenor Richard Edgar-Wilson and the bass Michael George. George is arguably the most experienced of them and he sings with authority, especially in the aria with trumpet in Part I, but all show a good sense of period style. Mr. Purefoy has the work’s most beautiful solo, "Music, Gently Soothing Power". The New College Choir are also old hands at baroque repertoire and they perform the Ode’s four choruses, all showing Boyce’s resource in contrapuntal writing, excitingly. The Hanover Band play stylishly under Graham Lea-Cox.

All told, this is an important and highly recommendable release, an agreeable marriage of musicianship and scholarship. Even today Boyce’s achievements are generally too little known (though there is an orchestra in Doncaster, founded in 1969, named after him) and anything which might redress this is to be welcomed.

Phil Scowcroft


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