The mellifluous opening Symphony, scored for two violins and continuo, falls into two halves and leads directly into a vocal trio based on the orchestral material, punctuated by chordal Amens from the full choir. The Symphony is played again and leads into the trio ‘He shall dwell before God’, over which Purcell superimposes the two violins to create a five-part texture and antiphonal effects between voices and instruments. Musically the most interesting section is the minor-key movement, ‘O prepare thy loving mercy’, where we find the imploring writing that characterises many of Purcell’s great later works: there are phrases which look forward to the Te Deum and Jubilate of 1694, and a poignant closing instrumental ritornello.
For his final movement Purcell returns to the style of the first trio and chorus, the king’s crown flourishing in a suitably melismatic fashion. Within a few months Charles was dead and Purcell and the royal musical establishment were faced with a monarch for whom they were to discover they had very little love.
from notes by Robert King ©
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