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Purcell, Blow, Croft & Humphrey
Divine Hymns

Jehovah quam multi sunt (Henry Purcell). What art thou (William Croft). Lord what is man lost man (Henry Purcell). Hosanna to the highest (Henry Purcell). Tell me some pitying angel tell (Henry Purcell). Since God so tender a regard (Henry Purcell). In the midst of Life (Henry Purcell). Peaceful is he and most secure (John Blow). Lord! I have sinned (Pelham Humfrey). O all ye people clap your hands (Henry Purcell). In guilty night (Henry Purcell). The night is come (Henry Purcell). Close thine eyes (Henry Purcell). Wilt thou forgive that sin (Pelham Humfrey). Now that the Sun (Henry Purcell). Salvator mundi (John Blow).

Paul Agnew Thomas Michael Allen Hannah Morrison
Les Arts Florissants /William Christie
(harpsichord, organ)

Virgin Classics [0946 3 95144 2 7, 72 mins]

This new William Christie recording of mostly Purcell is a gem. Drawn largely from the two volumes of Playford's Harmonia Sacra, these small scale choices (no choirs) make a programme of English sacred works ideal for intimate domestic listening. Recorded over three days, the singing is uniformly excellent and the supporting texts and commentaries impeccable.

If you thought Purcell's religious music might be a bit heavy, give it a try. The music is mostly ravishing and the diction superb, most impressively Paul Agnew's.

It may well lead you to explore the 11 disc intégrale of Purcell's Sacred Music, which is one of my most treasured boxed sets, and I was glad the new disc prompted me to take it off the shelf. The only singer common to both projects was Paul Agnew.

That was a totally different project, involving trebles from eight leading choirs, the whole master-minded by Robert King and recorded over three years (1991-94) in various locations [Hyperion CDS44141/51 £76].

If you have that set it will not be redundant to add William Christie's, with his five superb soloists supported by keyboard, theorbo and viola da gamba.

Purcell & Humphrey Anthems
St John's Cambridge Choir & Sinfonia/Nothingsa
Soloists I Davies/J Gilchrist etc

Chandos 0790

Another delectable CD, impeccably produced and documented, duplicating some of the material above.

Jeremy Summerly contributes a scary portrait note about Pelham Humphrey who died at 26 "- pretentious, ambitious & arrogant, wilful and uncompromising - - ".

Peter Grahame Woolf