DAVID BRYSON | Glossop Derbyshire England | 02/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The leaflet with this outstanding pair of discs contains the words to the vocal numbers and nothing else. I would like to know a great deal more about both the music and the performers, but I have no right to complain about any lack when presented with so much superb music in high-quality sound at a price like this.
One of the discs contains 9 songs given by the counter-tenor Michael Chance, plus the reasonably-famous chaconny in G minor, 15 numbers from Purcell's instrumental music to someone's play Dioclesian, and the `curtain tune' to Timon of Athens, presumably Shakespeare's. At first hearing I was slightly taken aback by the start of the `dance of the furies' in Dioclesian - beautiful in the extreme but almost suggestive of Gluck's dance of the blessed spirits - until the furies became a little more lively, if not exactly my idea of furious, in the second section of the piece. I also wonder what took place in the `chair dance'. It's all really lovely stuff, done with out-and-out professionalism and a love and understanding of the music that shines through every bar; but in the last resort it's not the instrumental music here, except perhaps the chaconny, that reveals the very greatest Purcell. The songs could hardly have a better advocate than Chance who has a really superb and powerful voice, helped by a rather `forward' recording. One song stands out as quite extraordinary, the long `Queen's Epicedium', and for sheer raw emotion I can't offhand think of its like in Bach or even in Handel. Unfortunately there is no translation of the Latin text, but I can help here if required (below*).
The other, and shorter, disc consists of choral numbers starting with a short but eloquent and most un-Handelian Te Deum, followed by 6 settings of verses from the Psalms. The balance of the disc is occupied by 6 `Funeral Sentences for Queen Mary', a solemn and beautiful suite easily as coherent as Handel's fireworks music or the Bach orchestral suites. Among such outstanding vocal and instrumental work it would be unfair and invidious to single out any particular performer, so let me draw attention unfairly and invidiously to the superb drum-work of Robert Howes in the two funeral march episodes.
*I imagine that in the `Queen's Epicedium' you will want to know what sentiments this extraordinary music is expressing. The poem is frankly third-rate rodomontade, but it should still make sense, and at two points it doesn't. I have therefore done what is really the cautious and conservative thing, and conjectured what the original text probably said. The alternative - to cling to the text as given, which is quite certainly corrupted by scribal errors of the usual type, and then render Latin nonsense into English nonsense and go on my way rejoicing - is just disreputable. In fact I would lay reasonable odds on my first change, `iuncorum' for the meaningless `iunctorum', as it provides a very fitting poetic cliché of bullrushes bowing their heads in sorrow. My other change is to the sequence `gemitibus imis...turbido'. Here if we remove the full stop after `imis' and substitute a comma after `pectoris', then read `singultus' for `singultre' and put a full stop after `turbido', we get bad but feasible Latin. It might even just be right. This poet was no Horace to say the least, and I doubt I have done any serious injustice to his divine afflatus. So the sense now is -
'In vain, Lesbia, in vain you ask. My lyre, my mind is untuned. With the world full of tears, full of sorrows, do you ask for song?
Nymphs! Shepherds! Every head droops like the rushes, so much is she bewailed. Galatea sings not, nor does Tityrus sport in the fields. The sheep care not, lost in grief.
The queen alas, the queen of Arcadia is dead. O loss not to be expressed, not by sighs nor the deepest groans of the bosom nor the turmoil of plaintive sobbing. Sad Arcadians, how grief-stricken! The wondrous delight of her eyes is gone, never O never to return. Her fixed star outshines the sky.'
All that notwithstanding, a quite marvellous issue of quite marvellous music."
A voice teacher and early music fan
George Peabody | Planet Earth | 11/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"AN EXCELLENT STARTER ALBUM FOR ANYONE WHO DOES NOT HAVE MUCH KNOWLEDGE OF PURCELL, AND OFFERS TO ALL SOME WONDERFULLY PERFORMED MUSIC BY A VARIETY OF EXCELLENT GROUPS AND SOLOISTS!
It rather covers the gamut of his types of offerings. Disc 1 :Choir of St. Clare College,Cambridge -conductor Timothy Brown. They sing some of Purcell's Sacred Music, and it's a good selection:'Te Deum','Jubilate Deo','My Beloved Spake' a much-recorded favoite of many English choirs,'O God,'Thou art my God','Lord, how long will Thou be angry?','Remember not,Lord,our offenses',and the well-known 'Hear my prayer,O Lord'. The choir is excellent having the typically British sound with the boy sopranos and male altos.
last half of Disc 1 comprises the music of 'Funeral Sentences for Queen Mary', some vocal and some instrumental; again sung by the St. Clare Choir and accompanied by the Baroque Brass of London; all very excellent.
2 begins with 9 songs sung by Michael Chance, who, in my opinion, sings Purcell better than any other counter-tenor. His voice is rich and full using a whole-body sound; diction is flawless and every song is sung in the style and with the proper emotional input- just wonderful singing!!!!The Premier songs on the disc (in my opinion) are : "the Queen's Epicedium' also known as 'Incassum,Lesbia,Incassum Rogas' is an elegy on the death of Queen Mary (1694)...."In the Black Dismal Dungeon of Dispair" is a sacred song written for domestic use, and is in a dramatic and declamatory style....."An Evening Hymn" of the same ilk as the previous song and is a graceful ground-bass song which descends step-wise from tonic to dominant.
The 2nd half of CD2 includes music from the 'Dioclesian'and one selection from the play 'Timon of Athens' all instrumental, quite charming to hear, and played very skillfully by varied instrumentalists.
All in all this album is really a bargain!"