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This disc initiates a series from The Sixteen and Harry Christophers of Purcell’s Welcome Songs, those short odes which Purcell penned to entertain the monarch on his birthday, at New Year and on his return to London after a summer’s retreat in Windsor. Though not generally very well known, the Welcome Songs are full of fascinating, top-notch Purcell, both vocally and instrumentally. In addition to a pair here for James II (Ye tuneful Muses, raise your heads and Sound the trumpet, beat the drum), Christophers contextualises them by programming several short, self-standing pieces, including the familiar G minor string Chacony and the expressive When on my sick bed I languish. As one might expect, Christophers’s long familiarity with Purcell yields richly satisfying and stylish readings. A small pool of singers provides both the solos and ensemble, and they are matched by an equally lithe instrumental group. With excellent liner notes by leading Purcellian Andrew Pinnock, this an auspicious start to a welcome series.

PHILIP REED Read the full review on Agora Classica

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