Blessed is he that considereth the poor probably dates from around 1688. Set for three solo voices (two tenors and a bass), its appearance in a number of early eighteenth-century manuscripts is testament to the popularity of a remarkable anthem which is especially notable for its harmony. The fluid opening trio is richly scored, making much emphasis of ‘the poor’, and the high tenor solo ‘The Lord preserve him’ is remarkable for its florid melismas. But the most extraordinary section is ‘The Lord comfort him’ where Purcell’s inimitable harmony comes to the fore; the three voices are frequently only a fourth apart from each other. The astonishing phrase ‘When he lieth sick upon his bed’ could have come from no other pen. The triple-time trio ‘make thou all his bed’ dances along, throwing the word ‘all’ between the voices.
The Gloria is wonderfully extravagant, stretching out the doxology in compelling fashion, first by allowing each voice in turn the complete phrase, then giving each singer one member of the Trinity, and then finally by uniting the three singers. But more is to come, first with a jaunty ‘As it was in the beginning’ and then a marvellously extended series of falling fourths for ‘World without end’ which are countered by a florid ‘Amen’. Some manuscripts also contain a closing full chorus but this is a spurious eighteenth century addition.
from notes by Robert King ©