Voces8 / Les Inventions

A Purcell Collection

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The choir of eight might be regarded as the black belt test of choral singing, and the British group Voces 8 has released several albums that hold appeal for both explorers of unusual choral repertory and those who are simply fans of a clean choral sound. Possibly A Purcell Collection might better be titled A Purcell Miscellany, for it's hard to detect a strong principle organizing the program. The packaging makes a virtue out of the program's diversity, offering "an invitation to stroll through the world of one of England's greatest composers," but it's a bit unexpected to be taken directly from old-school polyphony of the sacred pieces to the zippy Italo-Spanish dance rhythms that were, in the England of Purcell's time, the hippest thing going. This is not a greatest-hits collection; "When I am laid in earth" and other Purcell standards are not present, and actually the pieces included are for the most part fresh and unusual. Check out the rarely heard and impressively structured anthem My heart is inditing of a good matter (track 8), composed for the coronation of James II in 1685. The singers and the instrumentalists of French group Les Inventions sustain this substantial work excellently, and the choir's control never flags over the whole program. If the goal is a sampling of the many genres in which Purcell was active, some of them little understood these days (consider the "semi-opera"!), this well-recorded item will fill the bill. The French church sound is ideal for the anthems and is adapted well for the secular pieces.

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