When David Heard: The Purcell Singers (Stone Records)
Such a relief at this time of year to receive a choral record that is not about Christmas. The Purcell Singers have selected ‘English and American Choral Masterpieces of the 20th Century’ and it’s hard to fault their choices, or not to thrill at the unfamiliar.
Ahead of the shopworn Samuel Barber “Agnus Dei”, transcribed from his second string quartet where it sits better, the choir warms up on the first part-song Edward Elgar ever got published, the utterly transcendent “My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land”. Skipping swiftly over “Shenandoah”, we reach the seriously undersung Morten Lauridsen and Kenneth Leighton, both inciting further exploration.
The longest piece – at 13 minutes – is the title song by Eric Whitacre, a tribute to a friend’s son who was killed in a car accident. The text, from the Book of Samuel, revolves around a father’s cry ‘my son’, an irremediable loss in an unforgettable anthem. Mark Ford and Jonathan Schranz conduct this absorbing set.
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Norman Lebrecht’s new book Genius and Anxiety is available January 14, 2020. Pre-order here.