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Patrick Ayrton, the director of Les Inventions, describes this as ‘an invitation to stroll through the world of one of England’s greatest composers’. Well, perhaps a couple of continents. As Ayrton himself notes, the output of few composers is as diverse as Purcell’s, and we are here concerned largely with sacred and secular choral music. The stroll turns out to be most agreeable, with many moments to savour along the way. The performances at times touch excellence and, with one arguable exception, are never less than very good. The exception is the famous ‘Cold Song’ from King Arthur, given with too much imposed artifice; the song is striking enough without trying to overlay it further. Voces 8 are at their best in more homophonic music, producing admirably balanced performances of considerable breadth and richness in the anthem Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem, Z.46 (which, contrary to the impression given in the booklet, is performed complete) and ‘Behold, O mightiest of Gods’ from Dioclesian. The stile antico counterpoint of the eight-part anthem O God, Thou Art my God is projected less satisfactorily, the performance not quite entirely avoiding a certain English blandness. This is probably not a disc for those already familiar with the composer, but it would make for an ideal introduction to at least a part of his world.

Brian Robins Read the full review on Agora Classica


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