Purcell: Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II

The Sixteen; The Sixteen Orchestra/Harry Christophers (Coro)

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Purcell Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II: Welcome, Vicegerent of the mighty king; Fly, Bold Rebellion; O Sing unto the Lord; Let mine eyes run down with tears; Beati omnes qui timent Dominum; Sleep, Adam, and Take Thy Rest; Catch – Since the Duke is Return’d; Great God, and Just
Grace Davidson, Kirsty Hopkins (soprano), George Pooley, Jeremy Budd, Nicholas Mulroy (tenor), Ben Davies, Stuart Young (bass); The Sixteen; The Sixteen Orchestra/Harry Christophers
Coro COR16163 64:54 mins

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The most extended pieces in this interesting programme are two Welcome Songs or odes celebrating the birthday of the restored monarch, Charles II. Welcome, Vicegerent – not a misprint for ‘viceregent’ but meaning God’s earthly deputy – dates from around 1680, and Fly, bold rebellion from 1683. Like Purcell’s better known odes they consist of choruses and solo vocal sections with strings and continuo. As we should expect, these are cheerful pieces whose character is realised in the spontaneous responses of The Sixteen.

The remainder of the disc features a three-part male-voice catch, an attractive devotional song Sleep, Adam, sleep, a hymn Great God, and just, a Latin anthem Beati omnes, and, crowning all, the verse anthems, Let mine eyes run down with tears and O sing unto the Lord. Both the verse anthems contain glorious music for solo voices, individually or in groups, executed with sensibility and expressive fervour. O Sing unto the Lord further calls for strings which were employed when the King, now James II, attended the Chapel Royal. It is an affecting work and one of Purcell’s finest in this form. Also post-dating Charles II’s death is the hymn with continuo Great God, and Just. It is sung with great tenderness by soprano Grace Davidson who is joined by soprano Kirsty Hopkins and bass Stuart Young in its brief concluding vocal trio. Taken together these compositions produce a colourful chiaroscuro of Purcell’s music for the Restoration court. The booklet contains full texts, an informative essay by Andrew Pinnock and a perceptive introduction by Harry Christophers.

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Nicholas Anderson