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Hyperion Records

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Saint Cecilia. Seventeenth-century Roman School
Reproduced by permission of The Trustees, The National Gallery, London
Track(s) taken from CDH55327
Recording details: January 1989
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: November 1989
Total duration: 51 minutes 48 seconds

'For those to whom Purcell's unfailing sensitivity and inventiveness in the setting of English texts is a constant miracle, the problem with this series is knowing where to start' (Gramophone)

'Highly desirable additions to any Purcell collection' (The Times)

Hail! bright Cecilia, Z328
composer
1692; Ode for St Cecilia's Day
author of text

Symphony  [9'27]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
In 1683 Purcell had been the first composer commissioned to write an Ode to celebrate St Cecilia’s Day by the newly formed ‘Musical Society’. On that occasion he produced Welcome to all the pleasures, notable not only for its great freshness but also for its wonderfully original string ritornelli. Nine years later the Society was flourishing and the ‘Gentleman Lovers of Musick’ once again turned to Purcell to ‘propagate the advancement of that divine Science’. As Motteux wrote, ‘A splendid entertainment is provided, and before it is always a performance of Music by the best voices and hands in town’. With Hail! bright Cecilia Purcell excelled himself.

Brady’s poem was derived directly from Dryden’s Ode of 1687, which was the first to call for obbligato instruments, and also the first to suggest that Cecilia invented, rather than simply played, the organ. Most of Purcell’s Odes were written for the relatively small forces available at Court, but on this occasion he was given the opportunity to write for a large group of performers. Purcell chose to mix large, contrapuntal choruses with a sequence of airs for soloists and obbligato instruments. The canzona of the Symphony contains a fugue on two subjects, and is thematically linked to the fugato theme which closes the work in ingenious double augmentation. At the centre of the Ode comes the powerful chorus ‘Soul of the World!’ closing in ‘perfect Harmony’. Between this and the large-scale choruses that frame either end of the Ode come an inspired selection of airs, based around an extraordinary collection of compositional devices. ‘Hark, each Tree’ is a sarabande on a ground, whilst ‘Thou tun’st this World’ is set as a minuet; ‘In vain the Am’rous Flute’ is set to a passacaglia bass, and ‘Wond’rous Machine!’ splendidly depicts an inexorably chugging machine with its ground bass and wailing oboes. Perhaps the most remarkable solo movement is ‘’Tis Nature’s Voice’ where the recitative is so heavily ornamented as to make it melismatic arioso. (The score writes ‘Mr Pate’ against this number, but some commentators have misread Motteux’s report of this movement, ‘which was sung with incredible graces by Mr. Henry Purcell himself’, to suggest that Purcell was the singer, rather than the writer, of those ‘incredible graces’.) With a text full of references to music and musical instruments, the work requires a wide variety of vocal soloists and obbligato instruments. Everywhere we find writing of great originality, word-setting of the highest calibre, and music of startling individuality.

from notes by Robert King © 2010

Other albums featuring this work
'Purcell: The Complete Odes & Welcome Songs' (CDS44031/8)
Purcell: The Complete Odes & Welcome Songs
MP3 £35.00FLAC £35.00ALAC £35.00Buy by post £38.50 CDS44031/8  8CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
'Purcell & Blow: Countertenor duets' (CDH55447)
Purcell & Blow: Countertenor duets
MP3 £4.99FLAC £4.99ALAC £4.99Buy by post £5.50 CDH55447  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'English Lute Songs' (CDH55249)
English Lute Songs
MP3 £4.99FLAC £4.99ALAC £4.99Buy by post £5.50 CDH55249  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Essential Purcell' (KING2)
Essential Purcell
Buy by post £4.50 This album is not yet available for download KING2  Super-budget price sampler  
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