Thursday, December 29, 2005

CD Review - Chanticleer sings Purcell

True, we just had some Purcell reviewed last time. But how about some more?

Evening Prayer: Purcell Anthems and Sacred Songs
with Chanticleer, dir. Joseph Jennings, and Capriccio Stravagante, dir. Skip Sempé. Liner notes by Lindsay Kemp.

About the performance: First off, I must confess to a bias with regards to Chanticleer - in my opinion, they can practically do no wrong. Happily, this recording does nothing to disrupt that opinion. This album is a wonderful collection of Purcell's church music. The collaboration with Capriccio Stravagante is fantastic - the blend between voices and strings is amazing. The music allows a number of the members of Chanticleer to show off their solo voices, which they do admirably. But the real magic is when they sing together. For tuning, tone, and pure musicianship, Chanticleer cannot be beat. Whether they are singing in unison, as in 'An Evening Hymn' or in complex counterpoint as in 'Hear My Prayer', it is hard to imagine Purcell ever sounding better. For anyone interested in Baroque music or simply in really excellent choral singing, I would heartily recommend this CD.

About the music: Purcell grew up during the reign of Charles II, when England was experiencing a bit of an artistic renaissance after the stringent nature of Cromwell's Commonwealth. Music by past composers, such as Byrd, Tallis, and Gibbons was revived, and the music of Louis XIV's court was an influence as well. The earlier English influences can be heard in the complex counterpoint of such works as 'I was glad,' which is reminiscent of Gibbon's 'O, Clap Your Hands' or Byrd's 'Sing Joyfully.' And the French influence is clearly discernable in the ritornellos and dance-like rhythms in 'The Bell Anthem' and other larger-scale sacred works. But Purcell shines the most in the smaller anthems such as the well-known 'Hear My Prayer' where his incredible counterpoint skills are paired with a more daring harmonic approach; in these works he exhibits an unusually intense, emotional, and very unique musical voice.

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