Purcell, La Reveuse, Florence Bolton - Devotional Songs & Anthems

Published Thursday 29th October 2015
Purcell, La Reveuse, Florence Bolton - Devotional Songs & Anthems
Purcell, La Reveuse, Florence Bolton - Devotional Songs & Anthems

STYLE: Classical
RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
LABEL: Mirare MIR283

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

Henry Purcell was born in 1659, at the very end of Cromwell's Commonwealth and the Restoration of the English monarchy under Charles II. Thus he grew up at a time when musical tastes were changing, particularly in church music. The austere plainsong of the Puritans was replaced by a more Continental idiom. Purcell knew his musical history and may well have been more at home in the Elizabethan age with Tallis and Byrd but none the less he embraced the new age and the devotional songs for three male voices on this pleasant disc are both interesting and enjoyable. Their origin is still little known and shrouded in a certain mystery yet these meditations on the frailty of human existence are among Purcell's finest and most moving works. Gifted with profound intuition of the emotions that can emerge from the union of text and music, this formidable composer, who understood and served the vocal music of his time so well, continues here the work begun by the masters of the preceding generation such as Henry Lawes. The singing by tenors Jeffrey Thompson and Marc Mauillon with bass Geoffrey Buffiere is formidable with crystal clear acoustics. The 10 songs are divided into three sets with musical interludes by the Moravian viol player Gottfried (or Godfrey) Finger. These allow the instrumentalists, led by bass viol player Florence Bolton, to shine. The music is reflective and often moving: Purcell was well acquainted with sorrow. So some of the titles are less than cheerful: "O, I'm Sick Of Life", "When On My Sick Bed I Languish" and "With Sick And Famish'd Eyes", for example. But Purcell is equally capable of looking up with joy, as in "I was glad". There are some who would place Purcell at the top of all English composers and while I would not share that opinion this disc makes it clear that he is a very great composer and La Reveuse interpret him very well indeed.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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