Reviewer: Lindsay Kemp
Funeral Sentences and Choral Works:
... Philippe Herreweghe
here offers a short cut to basic Purcellian knowledge with an attractive
selection of the composer’s established church music hits. The title of this
release (“Purcell’s Funeral Sentences”), however, is not a little misleading.
Apart from representing less than a quarter of the music on the disc, and though
frames by the brass music used for the funeral od Queen Mary II in 1694 (the
March and the Canzona, Z860) the settings of the Funeral Sentences recorded here
are early ones, possibly dating from the 1670s. In particular, it should be
pointed out that the version of Thou know’st, Lord is not, as the
box-cover claims, the well-known anthem of 1695, Z58c, but instead the setting
for choir with soloists, Z58b.
This, I confess, is not the first time I’ve heard this repertoire performed by a
non-English ensemble, but also the first time I’ve encountered it from a mixed
(as opposed to all-male) choir. The sound is actually not much different: the
Choir of the Collegium Vocale has female sopranos and altos (the latter not
exclusively) but cultivates a boyish, low-pitched vibrato sound, while the
soloists are predominantly English and churchy in style. Supplement this with a
higher level of intonational accuracy and rhythmic sharpness than can usually be
achieved with boys, together with Herreweghe’s typically fastidious way with
vocal and instrumental blending, and the results are certainly pleasing. What is
missing is some of the more robust commitment that you get from Robert King.
Interpretational surprises are few, though it is worth noting that Herreweghe
attempts to combat the damagingly disjointed progress of the Te Deum by
firmly moving the tempo along, while the opening Symphony to My heart is
inditing has a stately sweep that reminds one more than ever that this is a
coronation piece. Finally, I feel I should just warn of the recording’s noisy
church ambience, which not only drops out irritatingly between tracks, but, even
more illusion-shatteringly, between sections of the Funeral Music.
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