Musical genius works here to lift the word-settings to a higher realm
“Oxford Psalms”? All the works here have some connection with Oxford, but actually the musical thread is quite strong in itself. The well chosen works on this disc have in common an expressive communicativeness and sensitivity to text that bind the attention and at times impress deeply.
It is no surprise that Purcell should emerge looking like the great master he was; both Since God so tender and Blessed is he that considereth the poor demonstrate his ability to make the most of every detail of word-setting and then lift his work to a higher realm with purely musical genius. But Blow’s As on Euphrates’ shady banks is no lessRead more sophisticated in its more prolix way, while William Lawes’s bold chromatic fire shows him again to have been among the most worthy of Purcell’s English predecessors; his five psalms are intriguingly experimental, interspersing ardently emotional solos with plain hymn-tunes, sung in unison, with the odd unexpected harmony from the continuo. And even William Child, a composer not much recorded, cuts to the expressive quick with his chunky 1638 Psalmes, apparently England’s earliest music with “continuall bass”.
Tenors Rodrigo del Pozo and Simon Beston and bass Nicholas Perfect are not the most solid of vocal teams but bring plangent tone and textural intelligence to the music, even if the words are sometimes lost to a slightly under-present recording which can also cause solos to be momentarily overpowered by accompaniment, as at the start of Since God so tender. The accompaniments themselves are exemplary, as are the short instrumental numbers. A must, I would say, for lovers of English Baroque.