One of the most grown-up review sites around


2019
51,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here

     
  
 

 

International mailing


  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

TROUBADISC

colourful imaginative harmony
Renate Eggebrecht violin


Leticia Gómez-Tagle
Chopin, Liszt, Scarlatti


Bax Piano Music


Guillaume LEKEU


Book 1 Book 2 Book3
Mota The Triptych: -Website



Acte Prealable returns
with New Releases


Superior performance


Shostakovich 6&7 Nelsons
Notable


Verdi Requiem Thielemann


Marianna Henriksson
An outstanding recital


Arnold Bax
Be converted


this terrific disc


John Buckley
one of my major discoveries


François-Xavier Roth
A game-changing Mahler 3

........................................

Bryden Thomson


Symphonies


Vaughan Williams Concertos


RVW Orchestral

 

REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Support us financially by purchasing
this through MusicWeb
for 10 postage paid world-wide.

Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
My Heart is Inditing, Z30 [18:37]
O Sing unto the Lord, Z44 [12:33]
Rejoice in the Lord Always, Z49 [8:51]
Voluntary in D minor, Z719] [5:49]
Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem, Z46 [8:01]
My Beloved Spake, Z28 [10:49]
Paul Plummer (organ)
Choir of New College Oxford, The Band of Instruments/Edward Higginbottom
rec. Chapel of New College Oxford, 2-3 September 1995
CRD 3504 [65:17]

This is a most distinguished disc presenting five of Purcell’s verse anthems and one of his three surviving works for solo organ in performances which are high on stylistic awareness and musical authority. Edward Higginbottom is an instinctive interpreter of this area of the repertory and he draws some crisp, clean and elegant singing from his Oxford choristers. The Band of Instruments comprises, for this recording, three members of the renowned Fitzwilliam Quartet (Lucy Russell, Jonathan Sparey and Alan George) whose work in early music on disc has attracted considerable respect in recent years, plus the noted gamba player Joanna Levine. With such musicians thoroughly versed in the practice of period instrument performance and interpretation of early music, it is little surprise that this disc has such an air of authority about it. On top of that it was recorded during the Purcell tercentenary year when these performers were obviously utterly immersed in this music and could treat its performance almost as almost second nature.

The question needs to be asked, however; is a group of four string players and an organist sufficient to match the demands of music which was originally written to be accompanied by the “King’s 24 Violins”, a performing ensemble put together after the Restoration by Charles II in imitation of the “24 Violons du Roi” he had experienced while in exile at the court of Louis XIV? The answer is, sadly, no, and what some of these performances lack is the opulence, stature and sheer drama which Purcell wrote into them; not least the coronation anthems My Heart is Inditing (for James II in 1685) and Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem (for William and Mary in 1689). In particular, the final verse setting of the first of these feels awkwardly exposed.

The small instrumental ensemble is far better suited to O Sing unto the Lord, one of Purcell’s most Italianate anthems and one apparently composed in 1688 for reduced forces in order to highlight the “stupendous base” voice of John Gostling. Whether the bass soloist on this recording – Clive Letchford – has the same resonance and bulk of tone contemporary reports suggest was in the gift of Gostling I cannot tell: Gostling, nine years Purcell’s senior, died in 1733 at the remarkable age of 83. But Letchford’s is quite a light and elegant voice, more a part of the choral fabric than standing out demonstratively on its own. Nevertheless the beautifully fluffy and buoyant singing gives this anthem a lovely feeling of freshness.

One word sums up Higginbottom’s approach to this repertory, and that is lightness. Rhythms are given great buoyancy, musical phrases have a pleasing lift and bass lines, notably the bell-like scales underpinning the instrumental interjections in Rejoice in the Lord Alway, float along almost weightlessly. This lightness of touch is enhanced by well-chosen tempi which neither push the music along too briskly nor dwell too heavily over the more magnificent moments, while those characteristic false relations collide and move on with little lasting impact. For my money the most rewarding performance on the disc is My Beloved Spake where the verse trio (Stephen Taylor, Philip Cave and Eammon Dougan) seems to be having an absolute ball with the famously sensuous text from the Song of Solomon,while Higginbottom’s deftness of touch ensures the abrupt changes of mood and tempo flit by with all the charming flightiness of a flock of swifts.

Purcell’s organ music has not been passed down to us in any great quantities; a result, according to Mark Humphreys’ somewhat uneven booklet notes, of the practice of improvising voluntaries rather than writing them down. But among those which have survived in its original version is the D minor Voluntary for the Double Organ which Paul Plummer performs according to the original score, complete with precise realisation of Purcell’s extremely detailed ornamentation; a style of ornamenting radically different from that of both Purcell’s French and German counterparts and one which, for those unaccustomed to it, can sound almost clumsy. He has also tried hard to create some feel for the sound world of Purcell’s time through his registration. But despite all this, the performance rather lacks the elegance and easy fluency of the choral items which make this disc so distinguished.

Marc Rochester
 


 

 



We are currently offering in excess of 51,000 reviews


Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and keep us afloat

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Nimbus Podcast


Obtain 10% discount



Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Postmaster
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger