PURCELL: Ode for St. Cecilia's Day
Today's countertenors David Daniels, Bejun Mehta and Andreas Scholl have one distinguished singer to thank for their acceptance and popularity -- Alfred Deller (1912-1979). He was the first major 20th Century artist to "legitimize" the countertenor voice which, by combining the pure falsetto tone with technical virtuosity, added excitement to both Baroque opera and oratorio.
Deller's extraordinary musicianship and technique are showcased in this valuable re-issue of his 1956 recording of Purcell's Ode for St. Cecilia's Day, also featuring soprano April Cantelo, countertenor Peter Salmon, tenor Wilfred Brown, baritone Maurice Began, bass John Frost, along with the Ambrosian Singers and Kalmar Chamber Orchestra of London conducted by Sir Michael Tippett.
Using Nicholas Brady's poem to honor St. Cecilia's Day (November 22), Purcell followed tradition by praising all the musical instruments in solos, duets, trios and choruses which are quite varied and entertaining. Included are musical tributes to the "airy violin," "am'rous flute," and "wondrous machine" (organ), all vying for Cecelia's favorite. The longest of the thirteen movements, the overture, is a delightful 5-part symphony containing fanfares, a two-subject fugue, an interesting Adagio for violins (and echoing oboes) and two spirited Allegros. Throughout, Deller's virtuosic ornaments and limpid tones are unique. A treasure!
K.S. (Feb. 2000)