LABELS: Virgin Veritas
WORKS: Odes for Queen Mary: Come Ye Sons of Art, Love’s Goddess Sure was Blind, Now Does the Glorious Day Appear
PERFORMER: Julia Gooding, James Bowman, Christopher Robson, HowardCook, David Wilson-Johnson, Michael George; The Age of Enlightenment Chorus & Orchestra/Gustav Leonhardt
CATALOGUE NO: VC 7 59243 2 DDD
Strange that Virgin Classics should choose to produce these three selected Odes just after Hyperion has completed an eight-disc collection of all of them (reviewed last month). Two of the soloists, James Bowman and Michael George, are common to both productions too, so their accounts invite comparison.
These are spirited performances: tempi are on the lively side and articulations are bold – generally invigorating though sometimes at the cost of elegance. The vocal soloists are first rate. While they are not always favourably balanced with the instrumental forces, they are recorded well forward, blending without losing individuality in duos and ensembles.
The playing from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is stylish and full of vitality, despite an occasional rasp of dubious intonation in a fairly dry acoustic. The King’s Consort for Hyperion had an easier task – one-to-a-part in a warmer ambience – and their continuo group is more colourful, adding theorbo and chamber organ to the OAE’s solitary harpsichord.
The Hyperion complete set earned our ‘outstanding’ symbol but, if you want just three of Purcell’s finest Odes on a single disc, this will give you great and lasting pleasure. George Pratt