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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA66716
Recording details: April 1994
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Ben Turner
Engineered by Philip Hobbs
Release date: November 1994
Total duration: 5 minutes 46 seconds

'New superlatives have been increasingly hard to find' (Classic CD)

'I have nothing but praise for this wonderful and justly-famed series' (Organists' Review)

Complete Service in B flat, Z230
composer
1681
author of text
Benedictus: Luke 1: 68-79; Benedicite: Daniel 3: 57-88; Magnificat: Luke 1: 46-55; Nunc dimittis: Luke 2: 29-32

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Purcell’s ‘Complete Service’ in B flat, a setting of ten canticles, though not unique, is a comparative rarity for its time. Alongside a Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (and their alternatives, the Cantate Domino and Deus misereatur) for performance at Evensong, Purcell wrote a Te Deum, Benedictus, Benedicite and Jubilate for Morning Service and Kyrie and Nicene Creed for the Communion service. The setting must have been extremely useful to cathedral and other choirs for the service appears, either complete or in part, in numerous different manuscripts all over Britain and has been included on service lists almost ever since. Compared to the anthems, the B flat service settings appear conservative, the harmony usually remaining relatively simple and often homophonic. However, they do contain ingenious canonic and other contrapuntal devices, and their choruses alternate with sections of verse which are usually split between three upper and three lower solo voices. A payment of thirty shillings is registered in the accounts of Westminster Abbey for Michaelmas 1681 ‘for writing Mr Purcell’s service and anthem’.

The Te Deum and Jubilate are of course very different to the more famous 1694 settings in D major (recorded on Disc 2), for the B flat service was not written for a grand public celebration of St Cecilia’s Day. But the earlier setting is nonetheless beautifully crafted, alternating sections of chorus and verse and adding further variety in the choral sections with antiphonal effects between the two ‘sides’ of the choir, decani and cantoris. Purcell also skilfully colours his text by the allocation of his forces: in the Te Deum the lower solo trio sing ‘To thee all angels cry aloud’, the three upper voices (two trebles and a tenor) depict the ‘Cherubin and Seraphim’ (two of the highest of the nine orders of angels, associated respectively with knowledge and love) and the full choir take on the role of the Heavenly Host and their continual cries of ‘Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth’.

Purcell relaxes the mood for the more reflective central section of the Te Deum ‘When thou took’st upon thee’ and the chorus that follows, especially the setting of ‘We therefore pray thee’ is particularly effective. At ‘Vouchsafe, O Lord’ (for which in the 1694 setting Purcell produced one of his very greatest movements) Purcell changes the soloists’ distribution, adding a second bass and creating the only moment when treble and bass soloists sing together. The result is especially touching. The Jubilate has a text considerably shorter than the Te Deum and Purcell’s aim is, again, to get through the text speedily. At ‘O go your way into his gates’ he skilfully incorporates a double canon in contrary motion — ‘per arsin et thesin’: the trebles exactly copy the tenor line but in inversion, and the altos do the same with the separate line first heard in the basses. There is one short section of verse, ‘For the Lord is gracious’, which is heard before the concluding Gloria.

from notes by Robert King ©

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'Purcell: The Complete Sacred Music' (CDS44141/51)
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'Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 10' (CDA66707)
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'Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 7' (CDA66677)
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'Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 9' (CDA66693)
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'Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 8' (CDA66686)
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