The Hibernian Muse: Music for Ireland by Purcell and Cousser – Whelan and his team give it all its worth

Album review: Irish Baroque Orchestra continues its exploration of Dublin’s musical history in the baroque era

The Hibernian Muse: Music for Ireland by Purcell and Cousser
    
Artist: Sestina, IBO/Peter Whelan
Label: Linn Records CKD 685

The Irish Baroque Orchestra and its artistic director Peter Whelan here continue their exploration of Dublin’s musical history in the baroque era. The earlier of the two works here is by the great Henry Purcell who provided the music for words by Dubliner Nahum Tate’s ode to mark the centenary of Trinity College Dublin – Tate, a graduate of TCD, was then poet laureate.

Great parent, hail!, first performed in January 1694, may have wince-inducing words. But once you can handle lines like this reference to Queen Elizabeth – “Awful matron take thy seat” (awful as in full of awe) – or another crediting her as the inspiration of music in Ireland, you’ll find Purcell’s ode full of the composer’s usual imaginative touches.

At 42 minutes John Sigismond Cousser’s serenata da camera, The Universal Applause of Mount Parnassus, written for the Dublin celebration of the birthday of Queen Anne in 1711, is nearly twice as long as the Purcell and the words are even wonkier and more fawning, full of the kind of praise one imagines Boris Johnson craving – “True loyalty’s all shining/evades the undermining/o’ertops the ill designing/and baffles all her foes.”

Despite some lack of verbal clarity in the close recording, Whelan and his strong team give it all its worth and more.