Royal Odes: Why, why are all the Muses mute?, Z343; Come ye sons of Art, Z323 – ‘Now does the glorious day appear’; Welcome, welcome, glorious morn, Z338
Carolyn Sampson, Emily Owen (soprano), Iestyn Davies, Hugh Cutting (countertenor), Charles Daniels, David de Winter (tenor), Matthew Brook, Edward Grint (bass); The King’s Consort/Robert King
Vivat VIVAT 121 81:12 mins
Thirty years ago Robert King recorded all of Purcell’s odes and welcome songs in eight volumes (on Hyperion). He has now returned to three of the works here not only to update his approach but – as he admits – because he wanted to find opportunities to employ his musicians during the current pandemic. It was worth it.
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Why are all the Muses mute?, for the accession of James II in 1685, is not a strong work, but its arias are transfigured by the bright lyrical tenor voice of Charles Daniels (as in ‘O how blest’), and the elegant, decorous countertenor of Iestyn Davies (‘Britain, thou now art great’). Both of these tracks have a more leisurely pace than in the earlier recording. In Now Does the Glorious Day Appearfor Queen Mary’s birthday in 1689 its proximity to Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas can be heard at various points (especially the ritornello following ‘No more shall we’). The robust drama of the aria ‘It was a work’ is nicely captured by bass Edward Grint, though his vocal production can be a little unfocused. Orchestrally, the rich five-part string textures (such as that following the ravishing aria ‘By beauteous softness’) are performed with clarity and style.
In Welcome Glorious Morn for Queen Mary in 1691 we reach a higher musical level. Both Carolyn Sampson (soprano) and Matthew Brook (bass) suavely maintain their vocal lines against the ingenious but busy aria accompaniments, and Robert King draws extra sparkle from Purcell’s pairs of oboes and trumpets.
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