Purcell’s opening is masterful, playing falling chromaticism against the rising tension of the vocal entries and climaxing with ‘to God I cried’. ‘O, lend to me a gracious ear’ is more gentle in its harmony, and each voice in turn falls down the musical scale at ‘Not sunk so low’. The bass majestically questions ‘who would be able to abide thy censure?’ and melismatically illustrates the turning of men before a trio ends the first section. The first tenor begins ‘My soul less brooks thy seeming stay’ alone, but is joined, with a wonderful shift into the minor, by his two colleagues at ‘The frailty of our state he knows.’ ‘To humble souls he gracious is’ takes each voice to the lowest extreme of its range, slowly building through eight statements of the point to the final sentence ‘And pardons what they have done amiss’. Here Purcell gives the bass voice a line independent of the continuo part, creating harmony which is especially rich.
from notes by Robert King ©
Other albums featuring this work