William Boyce: David's Lamentation over Saul and Jonathan

   UNIVERSAL / iTUNES GAU 208   


Information and Reviews


Graham Lea-Cox, Conductor


The Hanover Band 


 


UNIVERSAL / iTUNES GAU 208    

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On this CD:




  1. David's Lamentation Over Saul and Jonathan, cantata for soloists, chorus & orchestra
    Composed by William Boyce
    Conducted by Graham Lea-Cox


  2. Ode for St. Cecilia's Day
    Composed by William Boyce
    Conducted by Graham Lea-Cox



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Reviews


BBC


BBC Music Magazine


Following his widely acclaimed recent recording of Boyce's Ode for St Cecilia's Day (ASV), Graham Lea-Cox has come up with another rarity by the composer, David's Lamentation over Saul and Jonathan. The disc further includes another, smaller-scale St Cecilia's Day ode as well as two arias and a recitative from the earlier London version of the Lamentation. Boyce wrote the work in 1736 when he was 24 years old but revised it for performances in Dublin during the mid-1740s. It's a beautifully crafted piece introduced by a deeply affecting two-movement Overture in G minor whose initial gesture momentarily recalls one of Bach's great laments, in the same key, contained in the opening chorus of his cantata Jesu, der du meine Seele (BWV 78). Lea-Cox has assembled much the same forces as he fielded for the 'St Cecilia Ode', that's to say, the Choir of New College, Oxford, and the Hanover Band. And, as before, and with similarly happy results he uses boys from the choir for all the soprano, and some of the alto solos. Boyce sustains the melancholy, sometimes broodingly intense character of this dramatic scene - it's not really an oratorio - wonderfully well, punctuating the sections of an overtly 'lament' character with some vigorous airs and passages of accompagnato, in which the mighty shadow of Handel is often present.In short, this is a world premiere recording most urgently to be acquired. The overture alone should be enough to tempt readers but, if not, the poignant chorus 'For Saul, for Jonathan, they fast, they weep' should do the trick.Performance *****
Sound *****  © BBC Music Magazine 2001


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1 reviews     George Peabody

5.0 out of 5 stars   a voice teacher and early music fan  April 11, 2009 

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A WORLD PREMIERE RECORDING YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS

This disc includes: "David's Lamentation over Saul and Jonathan" and a small-scale 'St. Cecelia's Day' ode as well as two arias and a recitative from the earlier London version of the 'Lamentation'.


William Boyce(1711-1779) wrote this work in 1736 at the age of twenty-four years. It is a beautifully crafted piece introduced by a deeply affecting two-movement Overture in G minor whose initial gesture momentarily recalls one of Bach's great laments.


John Lockman, a poet, was the librettist for this work having written a poem 'David's Lamentation over Saul and Johnathan'. Lockman's biblical source for his libretto was in Samuel, Chapter one, and it tells the story of the death of Saul slain by the Amalekite, and of David's reaction.


One notable feature of this work is that there is no 'dramatic personae'. The Chorus acts throughout as in Greek Tragedy, commenting on events and providing spiritual and moral reflections, as well as pacing the drama by suspending it at certain moments. In the recitatives Boyce requires the soloist to cope single-handedly with both narration and dialogue between the characters as the story unfolds. The soloists, therefore, by turns take their roles as narrator or protagonist as the drama progresses towards the musical and emotional heart of the work- a duet of sublime beauty, 'Sad Israel, thy beauty's pride'. Solo violin and voices here begin David's 'lament'.


Boyce sustains the melancholy, sometimes broodingly intense character of this dramatic scene (not really an Oratorio) wonderfully well, punctuating the sections of an overly 'lament' character with some vigorous passages of 'accompagnato', in which the mighty shadow of Handel is present.


The "Ode on St. Cecelia's Day is found in one version only and was written at about the same time as the 'Lamentation'. It is short for this genre, but covers, in abridged from, the elements of the English St. Cecelia ode of the 17th and early 18th centuries. Their purpose was to survey the influence of the power of music in the affairs of man, allowing the composer opportunities to explore various emotions such as love, war and peace before bringing in St. Cecelia at the end.


Although I enjoyed "David's Lamentation" very much, this small ode of St. Cecelia charmed me and mesmorized me from beginning to end. It is well crafted and is really enhanced by the presence of Michael George, bass, who sings one of the most fabulous and exciting arias I have ever heard (shades of Handel!) I was captivated from beginning to end, and of course his voice is so powerful and resonant, his diction crystal-clear and his emotional investment great, that I can't thing of anyone who is into this genre, that would not be excited upon hearing it. The trio with boy soprano,Patrick Burrowes, William Purefoy and Michael George was truly memorable as were the choruses, so beautifully rendered by the New College Choir.


An outstanding performance herein by the:Hanover Band, the Choir of New College, Oxford and the following skilled soloists: Timothy Roberts,Harpsichord- Richard Edgar-Wilson,Tenor- Michael George, bass baritone- William Purefoy, alto- Andrew Watts, countertenor- and Patrick Burrowes, boy soprano. The singing of the soloists is superb, with flawless diction, exquisite tone quality and dramatic intensity. The same can be said of the New College Choir, who is always nigh unto perfection and the Hanover Band as always solid and secure in their playing.


For the Early Music Lover especially this is GREAT ENTERAINMENT!!!!In short, this is a WORLD PREMIERE RECORDING and if the overture alone does not tempt you, surely the poignant chorus "For Saul, for Jonathan, they fast, they weep" should do the 'trick'!


Just a closing comment that may help you to mentally place this in a musical category. It is described by some musical historians as a Cantata for Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra.


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Conductor's Note:


These previously unrecorded works by William Boyce have an interesting and somewhat complicated genesis.  Boyce composed two different Odes for St. Cecilia’s Day: the Ode for St Cecilia's Day, to a text by his friend John Lockman (recorded by us on Sanctuary Classics CD GAU 200) and the Ode on St. Cecilia's Day, to a text by the Revd. Peter Vidal (CD GAU 208, recorded along with David’s Lamentation over Saul and Jonathan ).  


In addition to this, Boyce composed two versions of his Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day (Lockman) for two different performances in London and Dublin and, likewise for the London premiere in 1736 and for the Philharmonic Society of Dublin in 1744, two versions of David’s Lamentation over Saul and Jonathan


In this series of recordings for Sanctuary Classics, we have performed from copies of Boyce’s original manuscript parts (the very same parts used by him in the first performances with his own musicians) - even recording producer, Martin Compton, worked from copies of the18th century scores!  Although in the end this might seem rather superficial, the act of working with these beautifully written parts does give us a powerful and fascinating feeling of connection to the composer and his own musicians.


Responding to the different personalities and voices for each performance, much as Handel or Mozart (or almost all other composers of the century) would do, Boyce cleverly adapted his original London scores for the Dublin Society’s remarkable Dublin soloists by keeping most of the orchestral lines wholst rewriting as necessary the vocal lines.  It was these very Dublin soloists, members of the two Cahedral Choirs in the city, who would premiere Handel’s Messiah a year later.  They included the remarkable high tenor, John Church, for whom Boyce rewrote several tenor numbers into a much higher tessitura.  As Boyce re-writes the score for the new singers, we can see the composer also making several subtle additions, such as adding strings and flutes in the recitatives, for stylistic and dramatic reasons.  The result in both the Ode and the Lamentation was two versions with their own distinct flavours and a distinctively powerful and dramatic beauty.


David’s Lamentation over Saul and Jonathan is a short work of extraordinary depth in which the composer uses the orchestra to vividly colour the tragic story as it unfolds.   This is intensely moving music, music of remarkable simplicity and assurance that leaves us to wonder at the maturity of this young composer, still only 24 years old.


Graham Lea-Cox © 2006


 


For more information on the life and times of William Boyce and his contemporary Thomas Arne, please see the article: Featured Artist: ORFEO Magazine, ITALY (Firenze)