Notes and Editorial Reviews
Although I recently welcomed Paul McCreesh's vital and robust account of Hail, bright Cecilia as the best available account of the marvellous celebratory ode, the reappearance of Andrew Parrott's 1985 version puts a slightly different complexion on things — though in an entirely positive way. Whilst McCreesh makes the score sparkle with his energetic view of tempos, vocal characterization and orchestral timbre, Parrott parades his smooth and integrated forces with less instant theatricality. Instead we have here a typically homogeneous and unfolding scenario: how organically and gently "Tis Nature's voice" emerges, with Rogers Covey-Crump expressing the passions with a wonderful air of mystery. So too, "Soul of the world" — what a transcendent concluding passage — which has never been bettered for atmosphere and clarity of ensemble. The solo singing here is good (there is some exquisite work from Emma Kirkby and from tenors Charles Daniels and Paul Elliott in "In vain the am'rous flute") but it is the delicacy of sentiment which complements McCreesh's more effervescent and lush reading. Robert King's performance should also come into the equation, with its consistently good judgement but as DF rightly asserted in his review, the singing is less even.
The reappearance of Parrott's recordings of Purcell's earlier Cecilian ode, Welcome to all the pleasures and the time-honoured and particularly accessible Come ye sons of art away is also received with open arms. Some may distrust the low pitch (A=392) but the high tenor of Charles Daniels and the satisfying registral blend of Timothy Wilson and John Mark Ainsley in "Sound the trumpet" are more than adequate recompense and the former's mellifluous rendering of "Here the deities approve" is a real gem to be savoured. King has much to say about all these odes too. Blessed on almost all fronts.
— Gramophone [12/1995]