WORKS: Peleus and Thetis; Florizel and Perdita; Corydon and Miranda; The Dirge from Romeo and Juliet
PERFORMER: Julia Gooding, Philippa Hyde, Robin Blaze, Joseph Cornwell, Andrew Dale-Forbes; Jilly Bond, Jack Edwards (narrators); Opera Restor’d/Peter Holman
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66935
We tend to think of William Boyce as a rather worthy composer, the author of eight jaunty symphonies and much church music, whose achievements
pale beside those of his London contemporary, Handel. This welcome disc, briskly directed by Peter Holman, goes some way to challenging that idea. It includes not only the imaginative and intense masque Peleus and Thetis – the major work here – but also the pastoral interlude Corydon and Miranda and, by way of two bonuses, the trio and recitation from the play Florizel and Perdita (Garrick’s reworking of The Winter’s Tale) and the Dirge that Boyce wrote for Drury Lane Theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet.
This music shares the economy of means and the freshness, directness and elegance of Handel’s later English work. Boyce does not tend to allow his arias to unfold and explore themselves quite as Handel did – they are short pieces after all – but there is plenty here to suggest that he had a strong hand to play as a theatre composer.
There is some fine singing in the main work from Julia Gooding as Thetis, Joseph Cornwell as Peleus, and the countertenor Robin Blaze as the shackled and tormented Prometheus, while in the slighter pieces Gooding, Cornwell and Philippa Hyde offer engaging character studies and the Dirge rounds the disc off with a moving act of mourning. Stephen Pettitt