Weelkes Cathedral Music
This is the tenth volume in Hyperion's eminently collectable series, ''The English Orpheus'', designed to extend acquaintance with English music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in the declared belief that during that time ''England was probably the most musical nation in Europe''. So there. Thomas Weelkes, who died in 1623, must be amongst the earliest of the composers to be represented. He was organist at Winchester College before his appointment to Chichester, and it is pleasantly apt that Winchester Cathedral should provide the choir for this record. Weelkes may only narrowly have missed being organist there himself, for John Holmes, the incumbent during his time at the school in Winchester, died leaving a vacancy in 1602 which was probably the year of Weelkes's move to Chichester.
The famous choir sing with spirit and skill in a programme which, among other things, tests their ability to furnish out of their ranks good soloists, especially trebles and altos. Among the many pleasures of the recital are the treble and alto duet and later a delightful passage for two trebles, both in Give the king thy judgements. There is a fine, rather exciting attack at the start of
Weelkes too is found at his best in such strongly committed utterances. The poignant harmonies of When David heard and the sinuous movement of the voices in ''passing the love of women'' are particularly memorable. So too is the concentrated six-part writing of Laboravi in gemitu meo with its high, arching phrases, so curiously vigorous in a setting of this most depressing of texts. But anomalies of this kind are not uncommon; and it is doubtful whether anyone who for whatever reason failed to hear the words of the second anthem here would imagine them to have much to do with
Actually, word-catching is a slight problem throughout, and for that and other reasons a closer recording of the choir might have been preferable. The organ solos are admirably clear and scrupulous in style. If, by any chance, they and even a few of the choral works should raise the very faint suspicion of dullness in Weelkes, his madrigals should be called to witness in defence: a further volume in the series, perhaps.'