Linley: The Song of Moses; Let God Arise

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COMPOSERS: Linley
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: The Song of Moses; Let God Arise
PERFORMER: Julia Gooding, Sophie Daneman (soprano), Robin Blaze (alto), Andrew King (tenor), Andrew Dale Forbes (bass); Holst Singers, Parley of Instruments/Peter Holman
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67038
Peter Holman has, almost single-handedly, uncovered the extraordinary talent of this tragically short-lived composer: Thomas Linley Jr drowned in a boating accident, aged 22. He was a rare melodist: his music has an elusive quality of artless inevitability, shared by Mozart, a boyhood friend in Italy.

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The Song of Moses opens with a stirring Handelian chorus, trumpets and timpani enlivening the Holst Singers’ 40 fluent voices, as Egyptian horsemen are lost in ‘whelming billows’. Such text, by a contemporary cleric, is little more than rhyming doggerel, but it leaves the composer a free hand – for a glorious duet of praise from two sopranos; solo soprano spectacularly fluent in a martial air; brazen horns and thrilling string unisons as bloodthirsty Israelites ‘satiate our lust and heighten our joy’. Orchestral colourings are striking, for instance a wind band alternating with strings as an Israelite bass reveres God – Forbes a touch overstretched at his lower limits.

If Let God Arise lacks the same assurance, bear in mind that it is the earliest surviving work of a callow 17-year-old youth.

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The recording team maintains its customary high quality. This 45th disc of Hyperion’s revelatory English Orpheus series is one you must not miss. George Pratt