Purcell: Royal Welcome Songs Vol II

Purcell: Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II. Vol II
The Sixteen, Harry Christopers
Coro COR16173.

Purcell: Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II, Volume II. Album by The Sixteen

The Sixteen continue their series of music written by Purcell for royal occasions with this 2019 recording. Designed to promote King Charles II as a strong and stable (a familiar phrase) and divinely appointed monarch, the music is by turn delicate and grand, celebrating the nobility of the King and his apparent political triumphs. The highlight is the 1683 Welcome to all the pleasures notably the jubilant concluding chorus in praise of St Cecilia: In a consort of voices.

Before the first of the two Welcome Songs, we hear the beautful but tiny Hear my prayer, O Lord and O solitude, my sweetest choice, sung with elegant simplicity by soprano Katy Hill. These are following by the contrasting Lord, how long wilt thou be angry and the lugubrious Plung’d in the confines of despair, separated by the sensuous instrumental Pavan for Three Violins and Bass in G minor.

Before the second Welcome Song, From Hardy Climes and Dangerous Toils of War we hear one of the most interestng pieces of the set, the Catch Of all the instruments that are. In a canonic structure, the voices sing exactly the same music but at different times – a long-standing technique but particularly effective in this context. Generally performed in catch clubs in pubs, they form a contrast to more subdued and respectful music of the rest of the disc..

One issue with the programme is that it doesn’t really do what it says on the tin. Neither of the key pieces are actually “Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II”. Welcome to All the Pleasures was an Ode for St Cecilia’s Day written for the Cecilian Society, rather than a Royal commission while From Hardy Climes was writiten or the 1683 wedding of Charles’ niece (daugher of James II and the future Queen Anne) to Prince George of Denmark.

The musical focus is on subtelty rather than bombast, which I find attractive. The solo singing is generally excellent, although there was far too much vibrato from a few, and also in the chorus singing for my taste. Credit must go to the continuo players Joseph Crouch, cello, David Miller, theorbo, Frances Kelly, harp and Alistair Ross, organ & harpsichord.

The full programme and other details can be found here.