WORKS: Love’s Goddess Sure was Blind; The Complete Funeral Music for Queen Mary: Funeral Sentences; Two Elegies on the Death of Queen Mary; Two Latin Motets
PERFORMER: The Sixteen, Orchestra of The Sixteen/Harry Christophers
CATALOGUE NO: 14252 DDD
This magnificent contribution to the tercentenary of Purcell’s death breaks new ground in scholarship, matching it with performances of the highest order.
Bruce Wood has discovered that, for the Queen’s funeral, Purcell composed his second setting of Thou Knowest, Lord to replace Thomas Morley’s missing setting in the burial service. It draws tears now as it is said to have done then. No less moving is Wood’s reconstruction of the processional music from Whitehall to Westminster Abbey, three linked marches for oboes and trumpets respectively, played over muffled military drums.
An amazing feat from the 13-year-old Purcell is ‘In the midst of life’ from the early Funeral Sentences. Its angular opening lines, and chromatic harmony, spiralling ever higher, are masterly. Christophers and The Sixteen are as polished in plaiting these lines as in expressing carefree joy above the hypnotic ground bass of ‘Many such days’ in the Ode – exquisite music except for one crudely witty air using a folksong as its ungainly bass. But, for me, the elegy O dive custos, with the astonishingly boy-like voices of Libby Crabtree and Carys Lane, is the unforgettable high point in this superb tribute to Purcell and his Queen. George Pratt