The imitative opening introduces two themes – one melodically angular, the other diatonic – which are passed between the six voices, creating a variety of vocal groupings. Particularly attractive is the rising chromaticism of ‘And in whose spirit there is no guile’. Only at the end of this section does Purcell finally allow all six soloists to sing simultaneously. The bass is provided with a fine solo, ‘For while I held my tongue’, graphically illustrating ‘my bones consumed away’ and the heaviness of God’s hand upon him before the first short choral interjection, ‘I will acknowledge my sin’. ‘I said I will confess my sins’ is richly set for a quartet of lower voices, leading to a lilting tenor solo, ‘Thou art a place to hide me in’, which is concluded by another short chorus. The two trebles are given an attractive duet, ‘Great plagues remain for the ungodly’, which builds up through the rising entries of ‘but whoso putteth his trust’ to the telling suspensions of ‘Mercy embraceth him on every side’. At ‘Be glad all ye righteous’ the key brightens to the tonic major and the four adult soloists return, their entries answered by the two boys’ ‘And rejoice in the Lord’. The texture remains predominantly five-part and imitative, only finally transforming into six-part homophony at the closing ‘and be joyful all ye that are true of heart’ which leads into a series of choral Alleluias.
from notes by Oliver King ©
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