Purcell • Morley

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Morley,Purcell
LABELS: Signum Classics
ALBUM TITLE: The Purcell Collection
WORKS: Works by Purcell & Morley
PERFORMER: Voces8; Les Inventions


This ‘perambulation’, as the liner described it, could hardly fail: eight beautifully integrated solo voices and the stylish strings, oboes, recorders and continuo of Les Inventions cherry-pick 14 pieces from the best of Purcell. The selection, if fairly predictable, ranges from the large-scale – the anthem My Heart is Inditing, rich in dissonant ‘English’ cadences and spine-tingling wrong-note harmonies – to the ‘Cold Song’ from King Arthur, bass and strings shivering with vibrato on stuttering repeated notes. A more sophisticated wit characterises the final ‘Alleluia’ of Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem, opening in a weighty 3/4 time and gradually morphing into a lively 6/8 as it dances to its final cadence.

Two numbers from Birthday Odes include Purcell’s favourite device, the ground bass, recurring hypnotically while unimaginable variations unfold above. ‘Strike the viol’ (Come ye Sons of Art) is a staggering demonstration of how much variety can be supported by a four-note bass repeated for four minutes on end. The lesser-known ‘By Beauteous Softness’ from a birthday Ode for Queen Mary, includes a haunting countertenor solo again above a ‘ground’, but now the vocal phrasing wilfully ignores the regular seven-bar repeated bass. But every number here has something particularly arresting within it, all supported by persuasive and committed singing, and playing of intense charm. Recorded sound, though stereo only, envelops the performers in the spacious warming acoustic of a French church.


George Pratt