Purcell: Complete Anthems & Services Vol. 4

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COMPOSERS: Purcell
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Complete Anthems & Services Vol. 4
PERFORMER: Susan Gritton, James Bowman, Rogers Covey-Crump, Charles Daniels, Michael George, Stephen Varcoe, Robert Evans, etcChoir of New College, Oxford, The King’s Consort/Robert King
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66644 DDD
After the extended anthems of previous volumes in Hyperion’s undertaking to record all Purcell’s church music, this disc develops the small-scale devotional songs — eight of them — contrasted with three more verse anthems and the mighty forces of the coronation anthem ‘My Heart is Inditing’. It’s a tribute to Purcell’s boundless imagination, to ingenious programming, and to the consistently high quality of the musicians that an archival anthology can be so enjoyable as a continuous performance.

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Every number brings new riches and two have never been recorded before. ‘The Way of God…’ is a revelation: Michael George sings with effortless ease the wide-ranging, warlike declamation originally designed for the ‘stupendous’ John Gostling; James Bowman and Rogers Covey-Crump wring out agonised suspensions from the defeated enemies.

No less outstanding is the devotional song ‘Since God so Tender a Regard’, on a ground bass yet floating free of it with extraordinary ingenuity.

Instrumentalists play one to a part and are crystal clear in the Chapel Royal pieces. In the final coronation anthem they are scaled up to match the original forces in Westminster Abbey.

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Four discs down, 11 to go — and this magnificent project shows no sign of flagging. George Pratt