Purcell: Odes for St Cecilia’s Day; Music for Queen Mary

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Purcell
LABELS: Virgin Veritas
WORKS: Odes for St Cecilia’s Day; Music for Queen Mary
PERFORMER: Emma Kirkby (soprano), Michael Chance (countertenor), Rogers Covey-Crump, Paul Elliott (tenor), Michael George, David Thomas (bass); Taverner Consort, Choir & Players/Andrew Parrott
CATALOGUE NO: VBD 5 61582 2 Reissue (1986, 1989)
Parrott’s affinity with early English music is amply demonstrated in his Purcell performances and this collection has much to offer, though nul points to Virgin for the miserly documentation. He directs a muscular, joyous account of ‘Come ye sons of art’ and aptly intense renderings of the funeral music for Queen Mary. The most substantial work,‘Hail! Bright Cecilia’, is currently available in several noteworthy period performances. Parrott’s reading, though marred by some quirky accents and poor instrumental intonation, is nonetheless affectingly sincere, the solo and choral singing consistently polished. John Eliot Gardiner’s 1982 version is impressively expansive and rhetorical but, with the exception of tenor Paul Elliott, the soloists sound dated and are recorded uncomfortably close. By contrast, a more recent account by Paul McCreesh sounds invigoratingly fresh: youthful voices, spirited continuo playing and a jazzy swing to the faster pieces. The main drawback to the recording is an excessively resonant acoustic. Kate Bolton

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