Joy and sadness perfectly combined
Mark Swinton | 02/19/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This CD is subtitled "A Celebration of the Life and Death of Queen Mary" and it thus divides into two sections. To begin with, we hear a number of works written for the Queen during her life, among which are short songs by John Blow (including "The sullen years are past" which has never been recorded before) and a massive setting of one of many odes for the royal birthday celebrations by Henry Purcell - "Now does the glorious day appear," which is a sweeping and powerful work with a variety of ground bass arias, duets, recitatives, choruses and orchestral symphonies - all making for a fine and rewarding listening experience.In the second section, the focus moves onto music written during the mourning period after Queen Mary's death. Purcell continues to prove himself the greatest composer of the time, in his semi-sacred songs (in Latin) mourning her death, and in the music he wrote for her funeral. This section is indeed a highlight of the disc as it attempts, in a very scholarly way, to recreate the funeral in the Abbey as it might have sounded in 1695, with the Funeral Sentences by Thomas Morley interspersed with Purcell's own material and a number of Farewell Marches for trumpets and drums only.The members of the Abbey Choir under Martin Neary do an admirable job of stepping into the shoes of their forebears under Purcell; accompanied by the period instrument-equipped New London Consort, the sound is truly magnificent. In addition, a number of prestigious soloists appear, including Emma Kirkby and Ian Bostridge (undoubtedly key performers for capturing the purity and delicacy of this music), Michael Chance (who seems a little under-utilised), Stephen Richardson (a rich and profound bass voice if ever I heard one) along with members of the Abbey Choir itself. Of special note- one does not often find a choral CD on which all three senior musical officials at the cathedral (Organist, Assistant Organist and Organ Scholar) are heard playing, but this is one such recording: Martin Baker and Stephen Le Prevost fill in organ continuo parts in various places, as does Dr Neary himself (who also plays the harpsichord for most of the solo pieces).Arc of Light have done it again- a recording of extreme loveliness, going right down to the packaging which features some beautiful artistry (in fact, the main cover photograph is given an explanation in the booklet notes owing to the special way in which it was produced). A true gem in all respects."
Good music, okay performances
George Peabody | 03/26/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This disc presents a somewhat eclectic collection of music devoted to Queen Mary (mostly by Purcell, but by some other contemporaries as well). Despite the common theme I couldn't get rid of the feeling that the pieces didn't "click." Neither did the soloists sound at ease. Michael Chance, perhaps, deserves the most praise. But alas, some of the pieces that he normally sings (e.g. Incassum Lesbia) were given to sopranos, who couldn't do them nearly as much justice. The voice of one of the sopranos kept cracking up (don't know which one: the past-her-prime Emma Kirkby or whoever-she-is Evelyn Tubb). Ian Bostridge is undeniably a great performer, mainly known for his brilliant lieder interpretations. I don't want to say that baroque is not his cup of tea because he is vocally well suited to this repertory. Yet I didn't think he was as great in Purcell as many of his countrymen, such as John Mark Ainsley, Charles Daniels or Mark Padmore (to the extent one recording is enough of a basis to judge, which perhaps it is not). I don't want to be unfair, but I've heard Purcell performed better. This is not a bad recording, just not the best."
A voice teacher and early music fan
George Peabody | Planet Earth | 01/27/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"'NOW DOES THE GLORIOUS DAY APPEAR' ON THIS DISC WITH GLORIOUS SINGING!
Purcell compositions for Queen Mary span the whole of her brief reign. He provided music for her coronation, on April 11,1689; for the formal celebraton of her birthday on April 30 each year; and for her funeral, on March 5, 1695. At the coronation of William and Mary his 'I was glad' was one of 9 anthems performed during this ceremony.
Purcell, in his position as Abbey Organists has tailored the music with precision. The opening passage is in stately block chords-straightforward for the choir to co-ordinate while proceeding along the nave, and arriving in their places just in time to watch the conductor for the closing bars. Later in the service the 2nd anthem by Purcell was sung:"Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem",
The centerpiece of this disc is the Ode for Queen Mary's birthday "Now does the glorious day appear" and glorious it is!!! It is divided into 14 sections; some solos, some duets and some choruses. It was easily the finest royal ode he had as yet composed, and also the most richly scored; laid out for five part strings, the violas being divided. Thanks to this exotic scoring, the ode abounds in moments of gorgeous opulence.
For Mary's funeral services (she died at the age of 33) Purcell composed 3 pieces all included in this disc and all memorable.
The performers include Westminster Abbey Choir; the New London Consort; soloists: sopranos Emma Kirkby and Evelyn Tubb-countertenor Michael Chance-tenor Ian Bostridge-basses Stephen Richardson and Simon Birchall. All of this under the direction of Martin Neary.
The notable distinction of this recording is as follows and I quote from the accompanying jacket:"Complete music for Queen Mary's funeral, newly assembled and edited, and performed in Westminster Abbey by the Abbey Choir for the first time since 1695". The recording is beautifully adorned inside and out, and the sticker on the outside proclaims that it is music featured in the Westminster Abbey Funeral service for Diana, Princess of Wales.