4 étoiles Classica -
The Anglican anthem is an elaborate, often festive polyphonic form roughly comparable to the motet from Continental countries. With strong liturgical connections, the anthem of the late 17th century tends to contain conservative elements, and so it is with this collection of anthems by Henry Purcell and his slightly older contemporary, Pelham Humfrey (1647-1674, meaning that he died at an even younger age than Purcell did). In Purcell there are such elements as the striking half-step dissonances in Remember not, Lord, our offences, Z. 50 (track 1). The two works by Humfrey include up-to-date dramatic solo writing combined with choral polyphony that harks back to the 16th century. It's an appealing and unusual combination from a rarely heard composer, and the presence of the two Humfrey works is the main attraction of this release. The booklet seems to concede as much with its heading of "Humfrey/Purcell: Anthems," even though the vast majority of the music is by Purcell. When it comes to Purcell, you can do better. The sound, usually a Chandos strong point, is unaccountably muddy, and good luck even to native English speakers in understanding the texts of these works, where text is important. The soloists, especially bass Neal Davies in the beautifully dark O Lord my God of Humfrey, are engaging, but the boys' Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge, is a bit uncertain in higher registers and seems somehow overmatched by the music. Worthwhile for those with an interest in English music of the 17th century, for the performances of the unusual Humfrey pieces are also the strongest on the album.