Weelkes Grant the King a Long Life

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Thomas Weelkes
LABELS: Obsidian
ALBUM TITLE: Weelkes Grant the King a Long Life
WORKS: Hosanna to the Son of David; What joy so true; When David heard; Alleluia, I heard a voice, etc
PERFORMER: Choir of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge; Fretwork/David Skinner
CATALOGUE NO: CD708

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This disc casts new light on Thomas Weelkes, a composer famous for his madrigals (and infamous for his drinking and cussing), in a beautifully planned sequence exploring his sacred vocal music and instrumental repertoire for viols and organ. Entwining large-scale English choral anthems with intimate solo-voice works, dances for viols and organ voluntaries, the programme offers a felicitous variety of genres, textures and styles.

The Choir of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, has tended to be overshadowed by its bigger collegiate-choir brothers but, under the direction of David Skinner since 2006, it is now a force to be reckoned with: candid, alert voices, nigh flawless technically. There’s both freshness and fire in these accounts, Skinner underscoring the music’s dramatic and madrigalian qualities, and enhancing dynamic and textural contrasts to elating effect. 

The selection of lachrymose pavans is luminously played by viol consort Fretwork, and pithily chromatic organ solos are articulately realised by the college organ scholars. The clean recorded sound, swathed in the silvery echo of the Sidney Sussex chapel, lets every detail cut through.

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Kate Bolton