Thursday, 7 February 2008

49. Henry Purcell - Anthems (1676 - 94)


Title: The Complete Anthems and Services 6
Performers: Choir Of New College Oxford, The King's Consort
Director: Robert King
Year: 1992-93
Length: 1 hour 7 minutes


Of the next 12 albums on this list 6 of them will be Purcell, this is just to show you what a significant composer he was, particularly in a British context, we start with a collection of his Anthems. This recording is one of 11 CDs of Purcell anthems, a bit like Purcell Anthems NOW 6.

This is quite admirable music even if it leaves me slightly cold, Purcell was basically jazzing up church music, but adding some pretty good instrumental parts including little symphonies. This has the side-effect, however of making the music lose some of its focus.

Clearly Charles II had problems with his attention span and Purcell does his best to grab his attention here, of course as with all church music this is a bit hard, and unfortunately Purcell manages it more with fireworks than actual beauty in the music itself. The fact that a soloist can sing for 8 minutes and then he says Amen and this huge choir repeats the Amen is really meant to wake you up while dozing of in church... "Oh the anthem is ending, mayhap we have to stand up or some suchest shit" - sayeth his majesty.

An interesting development in church music which does not hold a candle to Biber.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

In 1679, he wrote some songs for John Playford's Choice Ayres, Songs and Dialogues, and also an anthem, the name of which is not known, for the Chapel Royal. From a letter written by Thomas Purcell, and still extant, we learn that this anthem was composed for the exceptionally fine voice of the Rev. John Gostling, then at Canterbury, but afterwards a gentleman of His Majesty's chapel. Purcell wrote several anthems at different times for this extraordinary voice, a basso profondo, which is known to have had a range of at least two full octaves, from D below the bass staff to the D above it. The dates of very few of these sacred compositions are known; perhaps the most notable example is the anthem "They that go down to the sea in ships". In thankfulness for a providential escape of the King from shipwreck, Gostling, who had been of the royal party, put together some verses from the Psalms in the form of an anthem and requested Purcell to set them to music. The work is a very difficult one, including a passage which traverses the full extent of Gostling's voice, beginning on the upper D and descending two octaves to the lower.

Here's a nice anthem, not on the disc tough:

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