Blow: An ode on the death of Mr Henry Purcell

Floral design

Samuel Boden, Thomas Walker, Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen
hyperion CDA68149
+Begin the Song!, Dread Sir the Prince of Light, The Nymphs of the wells, Chaconne a4 in G, Ground in g, Sonata in A

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter listening to these exquisitely turned performances I feel that we need more CDs and concerts dedicated to the music of John Blow (though Venus and Adonis does quite well). By and large, it is cathedral/collegiate choirs who have kept his flame burning with the motet Salvator mundi  and some of the Anglican canticle settings. Now, Arcangelo, with assistance from musicologist Bruce Wood, round out that rather restricted view by means of a programme of secular music centred on the setting of Dryden’s Ode on the death of Mr Henry Purcell. Inhabitants of EMR-land will surely know that this is a quite superb work for two singers, two recorders and continuo. The low pitch adopted here facilitates performance by high tenors and Thomas Walker and Samuel Boden do not disappoint, relishing the many choice verbal and musical moments poet and composer offer them. Their fellow singers, in the other vocal vocal works, also bring admirable qualities to their performances, not least the ability to deliver lines such as ‘But here comes a Druid and we must retire’ without corpsing! The string ensemble delivers crisp performances of three chamber works: Purcell wasn’t the only one who could knock off a cracking good ground. The only slight disappointment – of scale, rather than substance – is the final New Year ode. The booklet (comprehensive, though in English only) tells us that such works were performed by the full Chapel Royal choir and the Twenty-Four Violins. However, here the chamber forces used elsewhere prevail. If you know anyone who thinks that English music between the Restoration and the arrival of Handel means Purcell and little else, treat them to this disc. And don’t forget everyone else you know. And yourself.

Brian Clark

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