COMPOSERS: Blow & Humfrey,Croft,Purcell
ALBUM TITLE: Harmonia Sacra & Divine Anthems
WORKS: Works by Purcell, Croft, Blow & Humfrey
PERFORMER: Paul Agnew, Thomas Michael Allen, Claire Debono, Hannah Morrison, Konstantin Wolff; Les Arts Florissants/William Christie
CATALOGUE NO: 395 1442
Even during his own day, Purcell was celebrated for his ability to ‘move the Passions’ with the sensitivity and power of his word setting, and this collection testifies to his genius. Focusing on Purcell’s
small-scale sacred works, which
were mostly intended for private devotion, the disc includes some of his most celebrated sacred pieces interwoven with less familiar gems, as well as rarities by Purcell’s compatriots John Blow, Pelham Humfrey and William Croft.
With his intuitive sense of drama and his background in the theatre, Purcell turns many of his sacred songs into thrilling show-pieces: there’s agony and intensity in The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation, a cris de coeur sung with stark passion by Claire Debono, while his retelling of the Biblical story of Saul and the witch of Endor – ‘In Guilty Night’ – packs all the dramatic punch of an opera into nine compelling minutes.
Christie and his performers bring the perfect balance of intimacy and intensity to this repertoire. Paul Agnew conveys the essence of
these songs with poetic expressivity, his velvet-toned tenor particularly suited to the darker, penitential texts, while the treble-like soprano of Hannah Morrison is the perfect instrument for Purcell’s sublime Evening Hymn, which she sings
with artless naivety. Divine, indeed. Kate Bolton