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Despite the stigma attached to being illegitimate—a very considerable burden at the turn of the nineteenth century—Samuel Sebastian Wesley was to become the most important English church composer between Purcell and Stanford.
In 1853 Wesley published a volume of twelve anthems which included Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace. Many of his compositions have sustained enduring popularity and this anthem is no exception. It is interesting that many successful church composers have understood the need for a degree of harmonic simplicity perhaps best defined as 'a slower rate of harmonic change'. Twentieth-century composers too—like Howells, Leighton and Harvey—have been quick to recognise that harmonic complexity (when increased by rapidly-changing chords—unless done for specific effect) does not suit the nature of a large resonant acoustic such as that of St Paul's Cathedral. Wesley is at his best in anthems such as Ascribe unto the Lord and Blessed be the God and Father (in Volume I of this series) where broad majestic themes announce an important text. Here he adopts the same fundamental approach where the theme is treated with slow-moving harmonies, the text dictating a peaceful, meditative approach.
from notes by William McVicker © 1995