Thursday, 17 October 2019

Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II, volume II

Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II, volume II - The Sixteen - CORO
Henry Purcell Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II, volume II; The Sixteen, Harry Christophers; CORO
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 2 October 2019 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
A further exploration of Purcell's Odes and Welcome Songs alongside his other music

This is another in Harry Christophers and The Sixteen's valuable series on Coro placing Henry Purcell's Odes and Welcome Songs in the context of his other music. Having already issued discs of Royal Welcome Songs for King James II and Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II, this disc is a further selection from the time of King Charles II. On this disc we have the Ode to St Cecilia, Welcome to All the Pleasures (from 1683) and the Welcome Song, From Hardy Climes and Dangerous Toils of War (from 1683), along with the anthems Hear my prayer O Lord, Lord how long wilt thou be angry and In thee O Lord do I put my trust, the songs O Solitude and From silent shades, the devotional song Plung'd inthe confines of despair, the Pavan of Four Parts in G minor and a catch, performed by a vocal ensemble of eight, with all singers mixing solo lines with ensemble singing, and an instrumental ensemble of 12 strings, theorbo, harp and organ/harpsichord.

Whilst King Charles II projected a confident, not to say swaggering image, the reality of his regime with its secret subsidies from King Louis XIV was less edifying. But during his lifetime these details were known to few and what Henry Purcell's music projects is the official image of the somewhat cultured and pleasure-loving court. Charles' tastes were formed by his period in exile, the experience of his cousin Louis XIV's court. But, restored to the throne in England, money was far tighter than at the French court, and Charles notoriously always preferred music that he could beat time to!

Hieronymus Janssens, Charles II Dancing at a Ball at Court, c. 1660, oil on canvas : 140 × 214 cm. London, The Royal Collection, RCIN 00525.
Hieronymus Janssens, Charles II Dancing at a Ball at Court, c. 1660, oil on canvas : 140 × 214 cm.
London, The Royal Collection, RCIN 00525.
Welcome to All the Pleasures was not in fact a Royal commission but an Ode written for a newly formed Cecilian Society, whilst From Hardy Climes was writiten in praise of Prince George of Denmark on his marriage to the Lady Ann (Charles' niece and the future queen) - in fact the Prince was a rather dull dog and King Charles famously quipped "I have tried him drunk, and I have tried him sober and there is nothing in him".

Both pieces weave solo moments with vocal ensemble in a fluid manner with Purcell deploying his quite limited forces with great imagination. These pieces respond to the relatively small scale of the performance, and the singers in The Sixteen move easily between solo and ensemble roles with all eight having a solo moment in one or other of the pieces. This is somewhat different to the complete recording of the Odes and Welcome Songs from Robert King and the Kings Consort where the soloists remain separate from the choir.

The disc opens with Hear my prayer, O Lord, one of the most affecting and tantalising of Purcell's full anthems. It is very short and tempting to feel it is incomplete, yet it is very powerful, and may probably have been written for a planned funeral service for King Charles II (dropped owing to his deathbed conversion). Katy Hill gives a beautfifully fragile account of the song O Solitude,  complemented by the anthem Lord, how long wilt Thou be angry, the pavan and Plung'd in the confines of despair one of Purcell's relatively neglected three part sacred songs. And these are followed by Welcome to all the pleasures.

In Thee, O Lord, do I put my trust  is a truly large scale piece, accompanied by instrumental ensemble, which lasts over 10 minutes, and this is followed by the mad song From silent shades in which Kirsty Hopkins brings out the vivid changes of mood in the piece, and then a lively catch Of all the instruments that are, before From hardy climes and dangerous toils of war.

Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II, volume II
Henry Purcell (1659-95) - Hear my prayer, O Lord
Henry Purcell - O Solitude, my sweetest choice
Henry Purcell - Lord, how long wilt tThou be angry
Henry Purcell - Pavan of four parts in G minor
Henry Purcell - Plung'd in the confines of despair
Henry Purcell - Welcome to all the pleasures
Henry Purcell - In Thee, O Lord, do I put my trust
Henry Purcell - From silent shades and the Elysian groves
Henry Purcell - Catch: Of all the instruments that are
Henry Purcell - From hardy climes and dangerous toils of war
The Sixteen
Harry Christophers
Recorded in the Church of St Augustine, Kilburn, London, 27-29 June 2019
CORO COR16173 1CD [72.27]

Elsewhere on this blog
  • A Day of the Dead at the Oxford Lieder Festival: Doric String Quartet, Thomas Oliemans, Malcolm Martineau, Prof. Helen Swift - concert review
  • Intimations of mortality: A Young Man's Exhortation to Boyhood's End at Oxford Lieder Festival (★★) - concert review
  • A work of scholarship and a fine performance: Academy of Ancient Music's new recording of Handel's Brockes Passion (★★★) - CD review
  • A barren emotional landscape barely disguised by the production’s kitsch fairy-tale opulence: Turandot, Met Live in HD (★½) - opera review
  • Bringing a rarity alive: Verdi's Un giorno di regno from Chelsea Opera Group (★★) - opera review
  • Voices in the Wilderness: cellist Raphael Wallfisch on his series of cello concertos by exiled Jewish composers - interview
  • The Song of Love: songs & duets by Vaughan Williams from Kitty Whately, Roderick Williams, William Vann (★★) - CD review
  • Will put a smile on your face: Vivaldi's L'estro armonico in new versions from Armoniosa  (★★) - CD review
  • 17th century Playlist: from toe-tapping to plangently melancholy, Ed Lyon & Theatre of the Ayre (★★★) - CD review
  • Magic realism, politics and terrific songs: Weill and Kaiser's Winter's Fairy Tale in an imaginative production from English Touring Opera - opera review
  • Orpheus goes to Hell: Emma Rice's lively new production somewhat misses the point of Offenbach (★★) - opera review
  • Thought provoking and engaging: Mozart's The Seraglio at English Touring Opera (★★) - opera review
  • Not letting the audience off the hook: I talk to Simon Wallfisch & Edward Rushton about performing Lieder, & about their new album - interview
  • Home

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