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Henry PURCELL (1659-1695) Music for Queen Mary Come, ye sons of Art (Ode for the Birthday of Queen
Mary, 1694) (Z 323) [22:18] Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem, verse anthem (Z 46)* [05:51] Love's goddess sure was blind (Ode for the Birthday
of Queen Mary, 1692) (Z 331)** [20:01]
[Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, 1695] Drum Processional [01:38] March (Z 860a) [01:49] Canzona (Z 860b) [03:01] Drum Recessional [01:39]
[Funeral Sentences] Man that is born of a woman (Z 27)* [02:45] In the midst of life (Z 17b)* [04:44] Thou know'st, Lord, the secrets of our hearts (Z
[Funeral Anthem of Queen Mary, 1695] Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts (Z
(treble) (*/**); Kate Royal (soprano); David Hansen, Tim
Mead (alto); Andrew Staples (tenor) (**);
Jacques Imbrailo (bass); Members of the King's College
Choir; Cambridge (*)
Choir of King's College, Cambridge; The Academy of Ancient
rec. April 2005, Chapel of King's College, Cambridge, UK.
DDD EMI CLASSICS 3 44438
Henry Purcell was appointed 'Composer in Ordinary to the
King's Musick' in 1683 he had to write the music for state
occasions. Among them were the birthdays of the King and
the Queen. Between 1680 and 1694 he composed 17 ceremonial
odes. Often he had to deal with mediocre texts, as the satirist
Thomas Brown wrote: "For where the Author's scanty words
have fail'd, Your happier Graces, Purcell, have prevail'd".
This disc brings two Odes Purcell composed for the birthday
of Queen Mary, which are contrasting in several ways.
last Birthday Ode Purcell composed, which opens this disc,
shows the influence of the Italian style. It is scored for
a large orchestra of recorders, oboes, trumpets, drums, strings
and b.c. The Symphony follows the model of the Italian opera
overture. The third (fast) movement is omitted here and replaced
by the ritornello which leads to the first verse for alto
solo. This Ode has become most famous for its duet 'Sound
the trumpet', in which the two solo voices (altos) clearly
imitate the sound of the trumpet. This is rather spoilt here
by the stereotypical vibrato of both singers on every somewhat
longer note. On the positive side is the use of ornaments,
although I think they tend to exaggerate, and don't always
sing the most appropriate choices. Italian in style is also
the bass solo 'These are the sacred charms'. Jacques Imbrailo
has a voice I do not find very attractive, but he uses it
well and sings this verse quite expressively. One of the
highlights of this disc is the fine performance by Kate Royal
and the oboist Katharina Spreckelsen of the verse 'Bid the
virtues', a splendid duet for voice and oboe.
text of 'Love's goddess sure was blind' is generally considered
much better than the average texts Purcell had to use. This
Ode dates from 1792 and is a more intimate work, which is
reflected in the scoring of two recorders, strings and basso
continuo. The style is predominantly French, starting with
the overture in two sections: slow-fast. A short coda leads
to the first ritornello and verse, 'Love's goddess sure was
blind'. A remarkable verse is the soprano solo, 'May her
blest example chase'. For the bass line Purcell has made
use of the melody of the popular Scottish ballad tune 'Cold
and Raw', of which Queen Mary was very fond. I don't need
to repeat my comments on the contributions of the soloists
here, as they are not different from those in the first Ode
on the disc: the bass is alright, the altos are not very
convincing. The verse 'Long may she reign' is sung here by
a treble from the choir, for reasons I don't understand.
It's not that Edward Phillips doesn't sing it well - on the
contrary, but if the soprano solos are sung by an adult singer,
why making an exception here?
contribution of Edward Phillips also reflects the characteristics
of the singing of the Choir of King's College. I find his
voice a little too weak, in particular in the lower register.
There is a clear difference here from the trebles from choirs
like that of St John's College Cambridge, New College Oxford
or St Paul's in London. This is a problem in particular in
baroque music, which often contains solo passages and where
articulation is important. This is one of the reasons the
second item on this disc, the verse anthem 'Praises the Lord,
O Jerusalem', isn't very convincing. Robert King, in his
complete recording of Purcell's sacred works (Hyperion),
delivers a much stronger performance. The same can be said
about the funeral music which is also performed here.
both Odes I find the choral contributions as a whole not
strong enough, and the trebles use more vibrato than usual.
What is even more disappointing is the playing of the orchestra,
which is uninspired and flat. The drive one expects from
a basso continuo group is mostly absent.
are certainly some nice moments here, but on the whole I
am pretty disappointed. This fine music can be performed
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