Purcell: Hail! bright Cecilia & Who can from joy refrain?
CDH55327 Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
Movement 01: Symphony
Movement 02: Hail! bright Cecilia, Hail!
Michael George (bass), Gillian Fisher (soprano), James Bowman (countertenor), John Mark Ainsley (tenor), New College Choir Oxford, The King's Consort, Robert King (conductor)
Movement 03: Hark, each Tree its silence breaks
Movement 04: 'Tis Nature's Voice; thro' all the moving Wood
Movement 05: Soul of the World!
Movement 06: Thou tun'st this World below, the Spheres above
Movement 07: With that sublime Celestial Lay
James Bowman (countertenor), John Mark Ainsley (tenor), Simon Keenlyside (baritone), The King's Consort, Robert King (conductor)
Movement 08: Wond'rous Machine!
Movement 09: The Airy Violin
Movement 10: In vain the Am'rous Flute and soft Guitar
James Bowman (countertenor), Michael Chance (countertenor), The King's Consort, Robert King (conductor)
Movement 11: The Fife and all the Harmony of War
Movement 12: Let these amongst themselves contest
Movement 13 (extract): With rapture of delight dost see – Hail! bright Cecilia, Hail to thee!
James Bowman (countertenor), Rogers Covey-Crump (tenor), John Mark Ainsley (tenor), Michael George (bass), New College Choir Oxford, The King's Consort, Robert King (conductor)
Movement 13: Hail! bright Cecilia, Hail to thee!
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