Purcell: Royal Welcome Songs for King James II

Reviewed on Mon 05 Mar, 2018

Emerging throughout is the sound of Purcell the opera-composer yet to come, a quality Christophers realises with consummate elegance.

Composed as the monarchy was falling foul of public favour, Purcell’s Welcome Songs for King James II are perfectly poised pieces of royal propaganda. The two here – Ye tuneful Muses (1686) and Sound the trumpet (1687) – have enough pomp to satisfy monarchical egos while also concealing a deliciously irreverent wit every bit as provocative as its regal genuflecting is calculated. Both qualities are perfectly balanced in Harry Christopher’s beautifully shaped performances with The Sixteen. If the 20-strong forces here are slight compared to those at Purcell’s command, there’s little sign (a passing loss of emphatic grandiosity aside) of any diminishment. Quite the contrary, the period-instrument ensemble giving it their all in playing of bristling, baroque brilliance and vocal performances that negotiate texture and tone with adroit nimbleness. Emerging throughout is the sound of Purcell the opera-composer yet to come, a quality Christophers realises with consummate elegance. Vivid sound and Andrew Pinnock’s excellent notes add to the pleasure.
–Michael Quinn