More proof of Blow's greatness
scott | Calgary, Canada | 01/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"John Blow is often mentioned in passing to place him in context with Purcell, but is not usually given much attention for his own sake. It is rather unfair, because Blow was a very fine composer, and were it not for the brilliance of Purcell his own fame would have shone much brighter in our age.
His sacred music is not heard very often, and this two-disc set is by far the largest compilation of his church anthems available and goes a long way to establishing Blow's mastery of this genre. I was surprised by how engaging and immediate most of these anthems are. They sound undeniably English, but there are some distinctly French turns of phrase that catch the ear. Most of these works are verse anthems, which employ a group of soloists who are joined by the full choir on occasion, all supported by a small string band. The one anthem written for the coronation of James II is scored for much grander forces, and opens the collection with great pomp. After getting to know these discs, I must say that I think I find these works on par with the sacred music of Purcell.
The music is extremely well served by the performers, with both the Parley of Instruments and the Winchester Cathedral Choir sounding clear and bright. The soloists, headlined by Robin Blaze, Joseph Cornwell and Stephen Varcoe are as good as their reputations would lead you to expect, and the boy trebles who take the solos are right on par with their older peers. I generally prefer the use of adult females, but these boys don't take anything away from the performances. Good sound too; fairly dry with good balance.
I highly recommend this bargain set, as it proves that Purcell was not the only genius in Restoration London."