Blow: Ode on the Death of Mr Henry Purcell etc; Humfrey: Anthem for the evening; A Hymn to God the Father; Purcell: If music be the food of love; An Evening Hymn etc; W Webb: Powerful Morpheus
Tim Mead (countertenor); La Nuova Musica/David Bates
Pentatone PTC 5187 047 70 mins
Tim Mead is an accomplished countertenor with many stage and concert performances to his credit. This is by no means his first foray into Restoration music – in 2018 he released a collection of Purcell songs and dances on the Alpha Classics label. The items on this current issue are a mix of freestanding songs, theatre works and arias from Purcell’s odes.
Mead’s theatrical experience comes through most clearly in his dramatic rendering of some of the songs from the odes. In ‘The Pale and Purple Rose’ (on the Wars of the Roses) the vocal projection is assertive and rousing, and the momentum sustained – though elsewhere his longer, louder notes can dissolve into a slight wobble (as in ‘The black dismal dungeon of despair’). The stage songs are often presented with an affecting fluidity, as in William Webb’s finely composed ‘Powerful Morpheus’, while Blow’s ‘Lovely Selena’ takes on an enticing lilt ably supported by the players of La Nuova Musica. There is some rather plodding note counting in ‘O let me weep’ from Purcell’s Fairy Queen, and the final 46 bars of Purcell’s Evening Hymn almost grind to a halt under the stolid rendering of the Hallelujah section. That said, the vocal decoration is kept nicely under control, though in Purcell’s ‘If music be the food of love’ the unrepeated sections oddly attract more ornamentation than the repeated ones. The instrumental players are stylish but sometimes the balance between lower and upper voices is uneven.