Works from the Reign of King James I
Musically speaking, the reign of King James I was almost as glorious as that of “that bright Occidental Star, Queen Elizabeth of most happy memory”. Byrd was still active, Wilbye published his Second Set of Madrigals; and, second only to Byrd, there was Orlando Gibbons, organist of Westminster Abbey for the last two years of his short life.
In his booklet-note, Robert Quinney is rather hard on the sycophantic texts of the first two verse anthems on this disc. According to Fellowes, the manuscript of “Great King of Gods” is annotated “made for the King’s being in Scotland”; while “O all true faithful hearts” marked James’s recovery from illness. The latter – nowadays sung to the words “O thou the central orb” – shares a rising phrase with the former both in the opening lines and in the Amen. Both are sung capably, if rather carefully; and the third verse anthem, “See, see, the Word is incarnate”, is similarly restrained. I longed for the soloists to take their noses out of their copies, as it were, and declaim more forcefully.
The opening of “Hosanna to the Son of David” is similarly lacking in vim; but in general the full anthems come off well. “O clap your hands” is inspiring, though it would have been even better with a rhetorical slowing-up before the doxology. The laments by Tomkins and Ramsey, and Gibbons’s “O Lord, in thy wrath”, all sung unaccompanied, are moving in their intensity. Despite my reservations, this recording should be snapped up by all lovers of the period.