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Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Complete Secular Solo Songs

Barbara Bonney and Susan Gritton (sopranos); James Bowman (alto); Charles Daniels and Rogers Covey-Crump (tenors); Michael George (bass)
Mark Caudle and Susanna Pell (bass viols); David Miller (theorbo, archlute)
The King’s Consort/Robert King
Recorded on 28-30 September, 1-6 October 1993 and 28-29 March 1994
HYPERION CDS44161/3 [3 CDs: 69'35 + 76'45 + 76'28]


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A thousand sev'ral ways I tried, Z359 - Ah! how pleasant 'tis to love, Z353 - Amidst the shades and cool refreshing streams, Z355 - Anacreon's Defeat, 'This poet sings the Trojan war, Z423 - Beneath a dark and melancholy grove, Z461 - Beware, poor shepherds, Z361 - Cease, anxious world, your fruitless pain, Z362 - Draw near, you lovers, Z462 - Farewell, all joys, Z368 - How I sigh when I think of the charms, Z374 - I lov'd fair Celia, Z381 - If music be the food of love, Z379/1 - Let each gallant heart, Z390 - Love thou can'st hear, tho' thou art blind, Z396 - Musing on cares of human fate, Z467 - My heart, whenever you appear, Z399 - O! fair Cederia, hide those eyes, Z402 - On the brow of Richmond Hill, Z405 - Pastora's beauties when unblown, Z407 - Rashly I swore I would disown, Z411 - See how the fading glories of the year, Z470 - Since the pox or the plague, Z471, Z471 - They say you're angry, Z422 - Urge me no more, Z426 - What hope for us remains now he is gone?, Z472 - While Thyrsis, wrapt in downy sleep, Z437 - Whilst Cynthia sung, all angry winds lay still, Z438 - Ye happy swains, whose nymphs are kind, Z443
Ah! cruel nymph, you give despair, Z352 - Celia's fond, too long I've loved her, Z364 - Farewell, ye rocks, Z463 - Fly swift, ye hours, Z369 - Gentle shepherds, you that know, Z464 - High on a throne of glitt'ring ore, Z465 - How delightful's the life of an innocent swain, Z373 - Bell Barr, 'I love and I must', Z382 - I resolve against cringing and whining, Z386 - I take no pleasure in the sun's bright beams, Z388 - If grief has any power to kill, Z378 - If music be the food of love, Z379/2 - In vain we dissemble, Z385 - The Knotting Song, 'Hears not my Phyllis', Z371 - Love arms himself in Celia's eyes, Z392 - Love's power in my heart shall find no compliance, Z395 - Not all my torments can your pity move, Z400 - Phyllis, talk no more of passion, Z409 - The Queen's Epicedium, 'Incassum, Lesbia, rogas', Z383 - Scarce had the rising sun appear'd, Z469 - She that would gain a faithful lover, Z414 - She who my heart possesses, Z415 - Since one poor view has drawn my heart, Z416 - Sylvia, now your scorn give over, Z420 - Through mournful shades and solitary groves, Z424 - What a sad fate is mine, Z428 - When first my shepherdess and I, Z431 - When her languishing eyes said 'love', Z432 - When my Amelia smiles, Z434 - Who but a slave can well express, Z440
Amintas, to my grief I see, Z356 - Amintor, heedless of his flocks, Z357 - Ask me to love no more, Z358 - Bacchus is a pow'r divine, Z360 - Bess of Bedlam, 'From silent shades', Z370 - Corinna is divinely fair, Z365 - Cupid, the slyest rogue alive, Z367 - The Fatal hour comes on apace, Z421 - He himself courts his own ruin, Z372 - I came, I saw, and was undone, Z375 - If music be the food of love, Z379/3 - If prayers and tears, Z380 - In Chloris all soft charms agree, Z384 - Let formal lovers still pursue, Z391 - Let us, kind Lesbia, give away, Z466 - Love is now become a trade, Z393 - Lovely Albina's come ashore, Z394 - No, to what purpose, Z468 - O Solitude! my sweetest choice, Z406 - Olinda in the shades unseen, Z404 - Phyllis, I can ne'er forgive it, Z408 - Pious Celinda goes to prayers, Z410 - Sawney is a bonny lad, Z412 - She loves, and she confesses, Z413 - Spite of the godhead, pow'rful love, Z417 - Sylvia, 'tis true you're fair, Z512 - When Strephon found his passion vain, Z435 - Who can behold Florella's charms?, Z441 - Young Thirsis' fate, ye hills and groves, deplore, Z473



These three CDs are also available separately (on Hyperion CDA 66710, 66720 and 66730) but it makes sense to consider them in their consolidated form in this handy boxed set. They represent the complete secular solo songs and are part of Hyperion’s mammoth Purcell edition, one that will retain permanence in the catalogue for a good many years to come. A glance at the singers will show the depth and range of the company’s commitment, though it’s Bonney who takes the lion’s share of the masterpieces here, followed closely by Gritton. Robert King directs and lends his admirable support and intelligent musicality. I’ve sometimes found him undercooked in this kind of repertoire but there’s no doubting his adroitness here as harpsichordist and organist.

Given the encyclopaedic nature of the exercise it’s inevitable that a number of these songs are slight; quite a number last a minute or so in length (some indeed less) and it would be idle to pretend that these are other than necessary for a comprehensive collection. But the eighty-seven songs cover the range of Purcell’s compositional career and flesh out his discography to a remarkable degree, a large number of them never having been recorded before.

In the first volume we can hear the intensity of colouration Barbara Bonney can bring – in such as Draw near, you lovers, where she’s briefly joined by Michael George (who has only two solo bass songs to sing). She shows liquid delicacy and legato in Let each gallant heart. Charles Daniels takes the more florid tenor songs whilst Rogers Covey-Crump dons the more lyrical mantle; the former copes splendidly with the demands of the divisions in Love, thou can’st hear, tho’ thou art blind where his agility is matched by his acute perception in matters of word setting. He also flourishes contempt and shows real personality in They say you’re angry. Purcell didn’t have a free hand when it came to the setting of the majority of these texts and many are fairly generic, something that in no way inhibited his unparalleled setting of his native language. Susan Gritton is allocated the more fiery soprano songs; she is on terrific form in the dramatic, theatrical Urge me no more and her company colleague James Bowman impresses in the insinuating charm of Let each gallant heart. The first disc ends with Bonney again, and her Oh, fair Cedaria, hide those eyes is one of the highlights of the first volume; one of Purcell’s great art songs sung with strain-less melismas and a creamy, rounded tone.

The second volume of course features the same repertory of singers and the same rewards from songs great and less so. Gritton and George uncover the special harmonies of Gentle shepherds and Bonney gives us a fluid and ornamental She that would gain a faithful lover, and a really reflective High on a throne of glitt’ring ore. The rightness of allocating these songs to certain singers is confirmed and furthermore they respond to the emotive potential and verbal inflections, as well as the considerable technical demands, with real verve. Covey-Crump is mellifluous and lyrical in his contributions to this volume (especially Phillis, talk no more of passion). Susan Gritton has control and eloquence, rising to a peak in Incassum Lesbia, Incassum rogas where floridity is matched by structural command of its near eight-minute length. In the final volume we find the third version of a "running commentary" in this set, If music be the food of love from which Covey-Crump extracts the full amount of melismatic effulgence (though I happen to prefer the second version on the second disc – it’s far more reflective). Michael George takes his one (of two) solo opportunities in Bacchus is a pow’r divine – a drunk song at which George is by now something of a past master. Gritton gives us the shrieks and vivid characterisation in From Silent Shades (or Bess of Bedlam) and Charles Daniels is on hand to turn love-lorn in Who can behold Florella’s charms? with a full complement of extensive heart-smitten melismas. He also does a fine cockney rogue in Love is now become a trade, dripping in cynicism. Perhaps the finest moments in this final volume come in Gritton’s beautiful singing of O solitude.

The documentation consists of full texts and fine notes. A very helpful touch – much appreciated – is the alphabetical index of songs at the back, cross-referenced by disc and track number. It rounds off an authoritative, comprehensive and intelligent set, performed by musicians of character and discernment, and backed by a company that knows the value of the enterprise.

Jonathan Woolf


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