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2009 is a year of anniversaries - the three hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Henry Purcell’s birth (1659), James MacMillan’s fiftieth birthday (16 July 2009) and The Sixteen’s thirtieth anniversary. To celebrate, the ensemble has recorded live a brand new disc of music dedicated to these most innovative of British composers.
Purcell’s extraordinary use of harmony sounds as modern today as it must have sounded in the seventeenth century. Putting his heartfelt Funeral Sentences alongside James MacMillan’s powerfully emotive A Child’s Prayer, written in memory of the Dunblane Tragedy, and his hauntingly beautiful O bone Jesu (a piece originally commissioned by The Sixteen) will give the listener the chance to experience the true power of this music.
“Throughout, the choral sound is rich yet unfailingly transparent… the solo work is equally impressive - listen for example, to tenors Simon Berridge and Mark Dobell and bass Eamonn Dougan in Purcell's Let mine eyes run down with tears or sopranos Grace Davidson and Charlotte Mobbs in the same composer's splendid O dive custos. ..."Bright Orb of Harmony" deserves to be set among that constellation of previous dazzling recordings by an ensemble that is less a choir, more an institution.”
9th May 2009
“Purity of voice, a tightly blended ensemble — the warming characteristics of Harry Christophers’s choir dominate this live recital, recorded in Guildford Cathedral. Four hundred years separate Purcell from James MacMillan, yet these composers suit each other, both skilled in penitential expression and harmonic daring. MacMillan commemorates the 1996 Dunblane shootings; the teenage Purcell writes Funeral Sentences — exquisite music in both cases.”
“Purcell's funeral and penitential liturgical settings contain some of the most heart-rending music in the choral repertory. MacMillan's tribute to his 16th century fellow-Scot O bone Jesu… holds up well, building to a glowing ending which, like all the MacMillan pieces on this disc, shows how deeply this composer understands the expressive and acoustic possibilities of the a cappella choir. Best of all though is the exquisite miniature A Child's Prayer. Excellent performances, sensitively recorded.”
“These performances were recorded live during the opening concert of The Sixteen's 2009 Choral Pilgrimage to celebrate both Purcell's 350th birthday and Scottish composer James MacMillan's 50th. Thus, while the anthems, motets and the first set of Funeral Sentences by Purcell presented here definitely tend towards the sombre, and MacMillan's musical language often has recourse to a stark muscularity, the darkness invariably gives way to light in the form of ecstatic melismas and lucent major-mode harmonies. Throughout, the choral sound is rich yet unfailingly transparent – as obvious in the opening Jehova quam multi sunt hostes mei of Purcell as in MacMillan's masterly O bone Jesu. But the solo work is equally impressive – listen, for example, to tenors Simon Berridge and Mark Dobell and bass Eamonn Dougan in Purcell's Let mine eyes run down with tears or sopranos Grace Davidson and Charlotte Mobbs in the same composer's splendid O dive custos. Christophers's direction is, as always, forever alert to the relationship between words and music – especially close with these two composers – while ensuring the careful delineation of the overall musical structure and each phrase, period and paragraph within it. Some minor blemishes aside, 'Bright Orb of Harmony' deserves to be set among that constellation of previous dazzling recordings by an ensemble that is less a choir, more an institution.”
“Christophers paces [Tradiderunt me] to perfection, enabling The Sixteen to luxuriate in its rich sonorities and shape effortless phrases, each apparently voiced on a single undying breath...This terrific release offers a nourishing blend of recent Macmillan, beautifully performed and recorded, spanning the gamut from prayer-like introspection and harmonic simplicity to festive outbursts and bravura melodic displays.”
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