COMPOSERS: Blow,Morley,Purcell,Tollett & Paisible
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Music for Queen Mary
WORKS: Birthday Ode for Queen Mary
PERFORMER: Emma Kirkby, Evelyn Tubb (soprano); New London Consort, Westminster Abbey Choir/Martin Neary
CATALOGUE NO: SK 66243 DDD
It may seem strange to end a disc of Purcell’s music composed in honour of Queen Mary II with music by Thomas Morley. But, as the Purcell scholar Bruce Wood maintains, Purcell’s own Funeral Music was merely one part of the musical contribution to Mary’s final obsequies. It also, apparently, included Morley’s setting of the Funeral Sentences as well as two specially commissioned marches by the minor court composers James Paisible and Thomas Tollett to accompany the state procession.
Further investigation by Wood, laying to rest – for the time being at least – the controversy as to whether or not Purcell’s own March was accompanied by kettledrums, also revealed the probable manner in which all three marches were performed: they were underpinned by a traditional march beaten out on military drums as the cortège made its way to the Abbey. On this, the first recording of Wood’s reconstruction, the result is undeniably thrilling, enhanced by the mournful tones of slide trumpets. The emergence of Purcell’s March is an arresting coup de théâtre.
The rest of this excellently conceived and executed disc is taken up with the familiar Birthday Ode for Queen Mary, ‘Now does the glorious day appear’, and a number of shorter pieces, including the two Elegies written by Purcell on Mary’s death. These are limpidly sung by Emma Kirkby and Evelyn Tubb. The contributions of the Westminster Abbey Choir, Purcell’s ‘own’, add a welcome if somewhat belated note of ‘authenticity’ to what looks likely to become one of the more essential discs of Purcell year. Antony Bye