Purcell : Britten (Songs by Henry Purcell realised by Benjamin Britten) | Champs Hill Records CHRCD106

Purcell : Britten (Songs by Henry Purcell realised by Benjamin Britten)


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Label: Champs Hill Records

Cat No: CHRCD106

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 2

Genre: Vocal/Choral

Release Date: 1st April 2016



Joseph Middleton leads an exceptional group of singers in a new 2-CD anthology of Benjamin Britten’s realisations of the songs of Henry Purcell.

Middleton writes that: “priceless to subsequent generations of performers, the result of the Purcell/Britten marriage wedded the greatest British Baroque composer with the 20th century’s finest British song composer in a totally idiosyncratic, vivid and bold way. As Britten wrote, his intention was to ‘apply to these realizations something of that mixture of clarity, brilliance, tenderness and strangeness which shines out in all Purcell’s music,’ Of course the same adjectives can just as well be applied to Britten’s writing.”

This marks the 100th release by Champs Hill Records, an independent label that since 2010 has firmly established its commitment to releasing recordings by young artists and new or under-represented repertoire, most of which (as with this recording) comes from their private 160-concert hall in West Sussex.

Track listing:

Harmonia Sacra

1 I. Job’s curse
2 II. The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation
3 III. Saul and the witch at Endor
Two divine hymns and Alleluia
4 I. A morning hymn
5 II. Alleluia
6 III. In the black dismal dungeon of dispair
Three divine hymns
7 I. Lord what is man
8 II. We sing to him whose wisdom form’d the ear
9 III. Evening hymn
10 Odes and Elegies: The Queen’s Epicedium
11 Turn then thine eyes
12 Mad Bess
13 Hark the ech’ing air!
14 I attempt from love’s sickness to fly
15 How blest are shepherds
16 Let the dreadful engines of eternal will

Orpheus Britannicus: Though yet the feast is only sound
1 I. If music be the food of love
2 II. Sound the trumpet
3 III. If music be the food of love
4 IV. O solitude
5 V. Music for a while
Fairest Isle
6 I. Fairest Isle
7 II. I’ll sail upon the dog-star
8 III. On the brow of Richmond Hill
9 IV. Shepherd, leave decoying
The Fairer sex
10 I. The knotting song
11 II. Not all my torments
12 III. Pious Celinda
13 IV. There’s not a swain of the plain
14 V. Man is for the woman made
15 VI. I take no pleasure
16 VII. Take not a woman’s anger ill
17 VIII. Celemene
18 IX. I spy Celia
19 X. What can we poor females do?
20 XI. Dulcibella
21 XII. When Myra sings
22 XIII. Sweeter than roses
23 XIV. No, resistance is but vain
24 XV. Lost is my quiet


Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears were early advocates of the glorious songs of Henry Purcell, including some in almost all their recitals together. As pianist, Britten developed elaborate accompaniments for them that today seem a little overworked, but it’s fascinating to hear their period style on these two CDs, especially with the unifying and responsive playing of pianist Joseph Middleton. The vocal styles vary rather widely, from early music, in Ruby Hughes’s shining Fairest Isle and Robin Blaze’s pure Sweeter than Roses, to full-on in the magnificent bluster of Matthew Rose, who brings Britten’s version of Music for a While to a huge climax.  Nicholas Kenyon
The Observer 10 April 2016

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