The first section demonstrates Purcell’s choral mastery: over the mysterious opening chords the second trebles float their high entry, building towards the angry ‘Quam multi insurgunt contra me’ and the counterpoint of ‘quam multi dicunt de anima mea’. The entries of ‘non est salus isti in Deo’ (‘There is no help for him in God’) build magnificently to a climax. The tenor solo ‘At tu, Jehova’ is highly Italianate in its declamation, moving into a section of triple-time arioso: the choir answer with the forceful ‘Voce mea ad Jehovam clamanti’ and a contrapuntal section ‘respondit mihi’ which builds to another sumptuous close, in which the choir basses divert from the continuo line to add extra richness to the harmony. ‘Ego cubui et dormivi’ is one of Purcell’s most vividly atmospheric pieces of choral writing, illustrating the psalmist sleeping and awaking, safe in the knowledge that the Lord was sustaining him. Purcell splendidly sets the warlike ‘Non timebo a myriadibus populi’ for solo bass, calling on God to save him. The continuo line at ‘Qui percussisti omnes inimicos meos maxilliam’ [‘maxillam’ would be better grammar] (‘Thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek-bone’) falls inexorably before the teeth of the ungodly are broken. The closing chorus is triumphant in its lilting triple metre.
from notes by Robert King ©
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