Em Marshall
MusicWeb International
June 2005

To celebrate The King’s Consort’s twenty-fifth anniversary, Hyperion has compiled a selection from some of their ninety-odd discs for the label. Under their inimitable director, Robert King, they have recorded a number of Hyperion collections, including the Monteverdi Sacred music, Purcell Songs, Purcell Odes and Welcome Songs (8 discs), Purcell Anthems and Services (11 discs), and 10 discs of Vivaldi's Sacred music. The works featured here range from Monteverdi and Bach to Mozart and Boccherini, presenting both classic favourites—Vivaldi's Gloria, Hummel’s Trumpet concerto, The Trumpet’s Loud Clangour from Handel’s Ode for St Cecilia’s Day and Purcell’s Hear my Prayer O Lord, and less familiar composers and works, such as Kuhnau—Bach’s predecessor as cantor at Thomaskirche, Knüpfer and Ruggieri. The main thing these works have in common is their outstanding quality of performance.

The Consort and Choir are flawless, and endow the works with great passion, vivacity and spirit. The solo sopranos bring gorgeously rich, mature voices to the pieces and all singers demonstrate a remarkable ability to excel in both solo and ensemble singing. They provide great sensitivity—as in Handel’s Un puro ardor, and bring a beautifully light touch—listen to Monteverdi’s Laetatus sum. The music meanwhile ranges from the tremendously rousing sound of the end of Knüpfer's Gelobet sei Gott, to the haunting and moving Hear my prayer, O lord, here given a deeply atmospheric performance. In all vocal works, the Consort offers most sympathetic accompaniment, and they are equally good alone, in the lively Lully Marche de Combattants or the superbly played Gabrieli Sonata XX a 22.

The singers can obviously cope brilliantly with whatever repertoire they encounter, resulting in occasionally virtuosic singing in the more demanding works, such as Vivaldi’s Sum in medio tempestatum. Naturally so, when one considers that the Choir includes such singers as Susan Gritton, James Bowman, James Gilchrist, and Michael George. It therefore also comes as no surprise to find that the brilliantly performed Hummel Trumpet Concerto has Crispian Steele-Perkins as soloist.

I would normally avoid sampler-type excerpt discs, but since the time-span on this is not too great, and the works are all along similar lines and go well together, this disc as a whole works adroitly as a compilation. Warning, however—definitely a dangerous CD as it could end up being very severe on one’s pocket, enticing one to invest in all the wonderful discs from which it presents extracts! It is indeed a showcase for some stunning works, and I was delighted to be introduced to some pieces and composers of which I was previously ignorant. Michael Haydn’s glorious Gloria, for example, hints at his unjust neglect in favour of his famous brother, Joseph. I was also glad Hyperion included excerpts from some of my favourite non-twentieth-century-English Hyperion discs, not least the beautiful and moving Boccherini Stabat mater. An uplifting disc, and nicely presented—I can certainly recommend this as an example of both fine music and exquisite performances.