Sidney Sussex College Choir, Cambridge / Fretwork

Thomas Weelkes: Grant the King a Long Life

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British composer Thomas Weelkes, who suffered the ignominy of being dismissed from his church job after his employers complained that he would "very often come ... either from the tavern or the alehouse into the choir," is best known for madrigals like Sing wee at pleasure. But he composed music in most of the genres of his time, and this fine release gives a sample of his anthems and his neglected instrumental music. Conductor David Skinner moves over from his small vocal-instrumental group Alamire to lead the Choir of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and the instrumental ensemble Fretwork. The choir, with adult (but young) female sopranos and altos, is not well known, but the sounds Skinner gets out of them are gorgeous. He likes to set shimmering vibrato lines from the comparatively small tenor section against clean lines from the women, and the sheer musicality of the result is often striking. Sample the subtle handling of the unexpected plagal cadence at the end of the anthem When David heard (track 7) for a taste. The instrumental pieces are divided between keyboard works and small ensemble pavans (and a few works in other genres), and Skinner and Fretwork make these cohere with the choral pieces even though they don't come from the same kind of setting. Highly recommended for those trying to broaden their English Renaissance collections beyond the ubiquitous madrigals.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 1:54
2 3:27
3 5:08
4 1:55
Voluntaries (2) for keyboard
5 1:53
6 2:11
7 4:10
8 3:10
9 2:32
10 5:04
11 2:33
12 3:04
Voluntaries (2) for keyboard
13 2:09
14 2:50
15 3:09
16 2:28
17 4:50
18 1:30
19 6:42
20 2:33
blue highlight denotes track pick