WEELKES Grant The King A Long Life
The disc opens with one of Thomas Weelkes’s most familiar anthems, Hosanna to the Son of David, in a performance which, frankly, does not impress. David Skinner drives it along relentlessly and forces a tone which verges on the piercing from the Sidney Sussex College sopranos. He is more spacious in his approach to When David heard but, with their sharply focused tone, the sopranos dominate and we miss the sumptuous harmonic underlay and with it the music’s powerful emotional impact. A third famous anthem, Alleluia, I heard a voice, gets a better choral balance but the choir itself is placed so far forward that whichever of the two named organ scholars – Benjamin Atkinson and Daniel Smith – is playing the accompaniment, all we hear are tiny hints of a tinkling chamber organ sounding as if the microphones picked it up by accident.
Most of the choral items here are marred by an overly bright tone from the sopranos and altos, with the result that their tone lacks blend – there’s a classic example of that at the start of Give the king thy judgements. Meanwhile, the solo voices projected for the verse anthems have a pointedly deliberate feel to them which stifles the musical flow despite Skinner’s penchant for a brightly skipping approach.
But there is more to this disc than the anthems, and the exquisite playing of Fretwork, especially in the three Pavans, is of such quality that it alone is well worth the price of the disc. And, given their own moment in the limelight in two of Weelkes’s voluntaries, the two organists emerge as deeply sympathetic to this delightful music.