Humfrey, Cooke, Blow

COMPOSERS: Blow,Cooke,Humfrey
ALBUM TITLE: Music from the Chapel Royal (The King’s Musick)
WORKS: Works by Humfrey, Cooke, Blow
PERFORMER: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers
In the autumn of 2003, Harry Christophers and The Sixteen celebrated their 25th anniversary with a concert in the Chapel Royal. While their programme on that occasion featured music for the Tudor and early Stuart monarchs, this disc focuses on the Restoration period of Charles II. Pelham Humfrey, famously described by Samuel Pepys as ‘an absolute Monsieur [as] full of form and confidence and vanity, and disparages everything and everybody’s skill but his own’, is the principal beneficiary with two verse or symphony anthems, and four of his five beautiful surviving sacred songs.


The remaining pieces include symphony anthems by Blow and Henry Cooke, who as well as being a fine singer, was Master of the Children of the Chapel Royal, and the ‘Club’ Anthem, so called because it was a collaborative effort by Humfrey, Blow and William Turner. The singing, both solo and corporate is of an high order. Tenors Simon Berridge and Mark Dobell convey the touching melancholy of Humfrey’s devotional songs with tender inflexions and a just degree of expressive fervour. Elin Manahan Thomas is comparably sensitive in her heartfelt account of the fourth song, A Hymn to God the Father. The two Cooke anthems are of especial interest since they are recent discoveries, edited by Bruce Wood who also provides an excellent accompanying essay, and recorded for the first time. The instruments of The Symphony of Harmony and Invention offer stylish and sympathetic support with only occasional insecurities in the upper string strands. A rewarding disc. Nicholas Anderson