Purcell set three of Taylor’s poems, revelling in their vivid language and sentiments and countering their strong texts by adding his own extraordinary harmonic twists and turns. The continuo rhythmically tramp the road to Damascus whilst Saul is ‘belching nought but chains and death’: Purcell illustrates the light that blinds him with a series of extraordinarily harmonised melismas on ‘glorious’. The inexorable progress of the continuo is briefly halted at ‘On his amazed eyes it night did fling’ before Saul continues his journey, now converted from ‘a child of wrath’ to become a ‘vessel full of glory’. The setting closes with a prayer that God should ‘curb us in our dark and sinful way’, as we ‘down horrid precipices run’. Purcell sets ‘down’ with especial emphasis.
from notes by Robert King ©
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