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Purcell: Harmonia Sacra

Lord, what is man?, Z192
O solitude, my sweetest choice, Z406
In the black dismal dungeon of despair, Z190
Lord, I can suffer thy rebukes, Z136
Voluntary in G major, Z720
In guilty night (Saul and the Witch of Endor), Z134
Voluntary in C major, Z717
Awake, ye dead, Z182
The earth trembled, Z197
My op’ning eyes are purg’d, ZD72
With sick and famish'd eyes, Z200
O, I'm sick of life, Z140
Close thine eyes and sleep secure, Z184
Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, 1695: Funeral Sentences

Gabrieli Consort & Players, Paul McCreesh

The voracious scouring of defunct catalogs by Brilliant Classics often yields gems, and this is one. Originally recorded in 1994 , released on Deutsche Grammophon, collects sacred vocal pieces that qualify as rarities by Purcell, who was mostly known for secular music. Apparently even in Purcell's own time they were intended for small circles of connoisseurs, & many remained in manuscript until recent times. The texts are by poets from earlier in the 17th century, several of them from the so-called Metaphysical school; they include such conceits as In the black, dismal dungeon of despair, Z190 (track 3), Plung'd in the confines of despair, Z142 (track 8), and O, I'm sick of life, Z140, none of which is as downbeat as the titles would lead you to believe; the focus is on the poetic virtuosity rather than the sentiment. Purcell matches this with free vocal lines that hark back to the Italian sacred concertos of the mid-century; his settings match the poetry in subtle ways that reveal new things on multiple hearings. They are for one to four voices plus continuo, and the Gabrieli Consort and Players under Paul McCreesh act as a single unit with extreme sensitivity to the text. The program is effectively broken up by a few ingenious keyboard pieces. An excellent find for Purcell lovers. Booklet notes are in English only.

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  • Seller location: Lower Hutt City, Wellington, NZ

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