Henry Purcell: Harmonia Sacra

Henry Purcell: Harmonia Sacra

by Les Talens Lyriques


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Henry Purcell: Harmonia Sacra

The list of disclaimers involved in this release from Welsh soprano Rosemary Joshua and the fine French early music group Les Talens Lyriques is unusually long. First of all, there is no Henry Purcell work called Harmonia Sacra; that was the title of a publication that contained music by Purcell and others and was in no way intended as a single performable work. Second, some of the pieces heard here include a bass vocal part, which has been omitted for no good reason (or no stated reason at all, actually). Third, director Christophe Rousset plays fast and loose with the instrumentation, switching from harpsichord to organ in a way that's hard to imagine coming from a musician of Purcell's time. All this said, there are many nice moments on this release. These little sacred pieces by Purcell are rarely performed, and they're just waiting for a singer to program them intelligently, perhaps in combination with Italian solo cantatas. That doesn't happen here, but they're immensely appealing in their combination of brevity, high-quality texts, and novel free structure alternating between tunes and declamation. For a true meeting of creative minds, check out track 12, Purcell's setting of George (not Georges, as the booklet has it) Herbert's "With sick and famish'd eyes." These are quintessentially youthful works by Purcell, delivering the texts for maximum startling impact, and Joshua's performances have a lot going for them in terms of putting the words across: they are clearly articulated, with a fine dramatic sense. Joshua is also a bit idiosyncratic, with a way of inserting vibrato when you least expect it; a bit of sampling will tell you whether you're in the subset that finds it intriguing or off-putting. The bottom line is that despite its quirks, this recording may at least temporarily fill a major hole in some Purcell collections.

Product Details

Release Date: 05/08/2012
Label: Aparte
UPC: 3149028006421
catalogNumber: 27


  1. Now that the sun hath veiled his light, sacred song for soprano & continuo ("An Evening Hymn"), Z. 193
  2. The Earth trembled, and heav'n closed, sacred song for bass (or soprano) & continuo, Z. 197
  3. Thou wakeful shepherd ("Morning Hymn"), for soprano & continuo, Z. 198
  4. Sleep, Adam, sacred song for soprano & continuo, Z. 195
  5. Ground for harpsichord in C minor (from "Ye tuneful muses" Z344/11), ZT 681
  6. How long, great God?, sacred song for soprano & continuo, Z. 189
  7. My op'ning eyes are purg'd, song, ZD72 (spurious)
  8. Suite for harpsichord No. 2 in G minor (from "A Choice Collection of Lessons"), Z. 661
  9. How have I stray'd, sacred song for soprano, chorus & continuo, Z. 188
  10. With sick and famish'd eyes, sacred song for soprano & continuo, Z. 200
  11. The night is come, for 2 voices & continuo (doubtful), ZD77
  12. Chacony, for 4 strings in G minor, Z. 730
  13. Let the night perish (Job's Curse), sacred song for soprano, chorus & continuo, Z. 191
  14. Lord, what is man?, sacred song for soprano & continuo, Z. 192
  15. Ground for harpsichord in D minor, (from "Celebrate This Festival" Z. 321/2a), ZD 222 (doubtful)
  16. My song shall be alway, anthem for bass (or soprano), chorus, strings & continuo, Z. 31
  17. Great God and just, sacred song for soprano, chorus & continuo, Z. 186
  18. Air for keyboard in G minor, ZT 693/2
  19. We sing to Him whose wisdom form'd the ear, sacred song for soprano, chorus of soprano & bass & continuo, Z. 199
  20. In the black, dismal dungeon of despair, sacred song for soprano & continuo, Z. 190
  21. Tell me, some pitying angel, (The Blessed Virgin's Expostulation), sacred song, for soprano & continuo, Z. 196

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