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|King's Consort Choir, The King's Consort, Robert King (conductor)|
For the opulent coronation of James II on 23 April 1685 (described and illustrated in great detail by Francis Sandford), Purcell composed two new anthems. At the end of the service, after the Queen’s coronation, the combined choirs and orchestra performed the massive verse anthem My heart is inditing of a good matter (recorded on Disc 4 in this set): for the entrance of the king and queen at the start of the service Purcell wrote a new setting of Psalm 122, I was glad when they said unto me. Sandford reports that “By this time [i.e. after the peers had taken their seats] the King and Queen being entered the Church, were received by the Dean and Prebendaries, who, with the Choir of Westminster, proceeding a little before Their Majesties, sung the full Anthem following”, and added in his margin that the anthem was “Composed by Mr. Hen. Purcel, a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, and Organist of St Margarets Westminster”. James Hawkins, the eighteenth-century compiler of the Ely Manuscript now in the Cambridge University Library, mistakenly ascribed the anthem to John Blow, and it is only fairly recently that its authorship has been restored to Purcell. Unlike My heart is inditing, this anthem was scored for the more modest forces of five-part choir, including two treble lines. Although it is not indicated in the Ely manuscript, it seems likely that a continuo part would have been included as well.
The opening section is suitably celebratory, using rich five-part harmony and joyful dotted figurations for the word ‘glad’. The various tribes of the Lord appear one by one as they congregate from their various corners, joining in homophony as they ‘give thanks unto the name of the Lord’. At ‘O pray for the peace of Jerusalem’ the mood alters to one of supplication, the trebles provided with an especially appealing line, before the lighter, triple-time metre returns with the hope that peace and plenteousness will bless the royal palaces.
The Gloria begins exultantly, with the opening word repeated three times: at ‘as it was in the beginning’ Purcell returns, as he did near the outset, to imitation, but he saves his compositional tour de force for ‘world without end’: the imitative point (a four-note descending scale) is first treated conventionally, then in inversion (rising), then in inverted augmentation in the bass line (rising at half speed), and finally, as the trebles and altos contest the theme at the original speed in real and inverted form, the tenors take over the single inverted augmentation, and simultaneously the basses triumphantly halve even this speed to present Purcell’s theme in double augmentation.
from notes by Robert King © 1994
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