PURCELL O Sing Unto the Lord
When the organist and choirmaster John Scott died in 2015, aged just 59, he left the world of church music immeasurably the poorer. A former director of music at St Paul’s Cathedral, Scott was employed until his death as the director of music at Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York. Now a recording he made with the church’s choir of men and boys in 2010 has been released for the first time on Resonus – a posthumous reminder of Scott’s living legacy in the many young musicians he trained throughout his career.
Indeed, what’s most striking in these Purcell verse anthems is the quality of the treble singing. No surplus breath passes through a sound that has a lovely bladed focus – muscular and connected but never pushed so hard that it distorts or becomes raw. Combined with Scott’s lively tempos and the stylish inflection of period ensemble Concert Royal, the result easily outdoes recordings by Christ Church, Oxford (Nimbus, 2/96) and King’s College, Cambridge, though not quite 2012’s ‘My Beloved Spake’ by Andrew Nethsinga and St John’s, Cambridge (Chandos, 1/13), whose aural drama is greater, even if it comes occasionally at the expense of beauty.
Scott and his choir are at their best in the sprightly positivity of O sing unto the Lord, the D major Te Deum and I was glad, with its crisply dotted rhythms, but fall just a little short in Hear my prayer, O Lord and Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes. These broader emotional canvases feel just a little pinched in these tidy performances.