Blow: Arcangelo

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LABELS: Hyperion CDA
WORKS: Begin the Song!; Chaconne a 4 in G; An Ode on the Death of Mr Henry Purcell; Ground in F minor; The Nymphs of the Wells; Sonata in A; Dread Sir, the Prince of Light
PERFORMER: Zoë Brookshaw, Emma Walshe (soprano), Samuel Boden, Thomas Walker (tenor), Callum Thorpe, William Gaunt (bass); Arcangelo/Jonathan Cohen


Not only did John Blow vacate the organ loft of Westminster Abbey to make way for Purcell. Outliving his pupil by over a decade, he compounded the compliment with an exquisitely crafted, recorders-enriched Ode on the Death of My Henry Purcell. This supplies the centrepiece of Arcangelo’s new disc, which interleaves four odes with chamber music including an affable sonata and two works based on a recurring bass: a G minor Ground not quite matching the intensity of Purcell’s famous Chacony, plus a G major Chaconne oozing contrapuntal vitality.

And what riches are contained in the odes – even if, after a promising start, the creative spark dims on Dread Sir, the Prince of Light. Written for St Cecilia’s Day 1684, Begin the Song!is a worthy rejoinder to Purcell’s Welcome to all the Pleasurescomposed for the previous year’s feast, and with renowned bass John Gosling among the company, it takes the singer down to a saturnine low ‘D’ – sung here with gravelly solemnity by Callum Thorpe.

Duets for high tenor seem to have been something of a Blow speciality – the Purcell Ode contains four alone – and in Samuel Boden and Thomas Walker, director Jonathan Cohen has harnessed a quintessentially English sound whose lyricism fits the vocal writing like a glove. Mark how the Lark is a twittering number  to launch what turns out to be more a celebration of Purcell than a lament. Throughout, the instrumental contribution is a joy; Cohen’s direction a model of stylish empathy and suavely-negotiated gear changes.

Paul Riley


Listen to an excerpt from this recording here.