When David Heard
Choral works by Barber, Britten, Elgar, W Harris, Howells, Leighton, Eric Whitacre etc
The Purcell Singers/Mark Ford, Jonathan Schranz
Stone Records 5060192780925 61:10 mins
Although these are all new recordings, this programme is intended as a retrospective of favourite pieces The Purcell Singers have performed since conductor Mark Ford founded the London-based chamber choir 25 years ago. Its 40 members make a warmly-blended sound in the opening track, Elgar’s ‘My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land’, with alertly sharpened accents on the pulsing rhythms of verses three and four, and a sudden flaring of emotion when the dead lover’s heart is contemplated in the final line, ‘colder than the clay.’
That mix of fulsome tonal blend and insightful word-pointing continues throughout the recital, in a feelingly shaped Barber Agnus Dei, a dynamically proactive take on Harris’s eight-part ‘Bring us, O Lord God’ and a probing account of Howells’s ‘Take Him, Earth, for Cherishing.’
Britten’s Flower Songs pose bigger technical challenges, but The Purcell Singers meet them impressively in a punchy, crisply articulated ‘Marsh Flowers’ and a version of ‘The Ballad of Green Broom’ which is nimbly playful while avoiding archness.
Eric Whitacre’s 13-minute ‘When David Heard’ is another major test of technique and concentration, and while the clustered harmonies don’t always emerge with pinpoint clarity the searing emotional arc of the piece is compellingly communicated, with telling demarcations between the successive stages on its journey of grief and lamentation.
Conducting duties are shared between Mark Ford and Jonathan Schranz, and the sound is excellent.