The boys’ opening melismas run towards a dropping interval which emphasises the word ‘rebuke’; both soloists sing the phrase before joining together. The voices intertwine at ‘neither chasten me in thy heavy displeasure’, the falling scale for ‘heavy’ contrasting with the inexorably rising vocal entries. The voices interrupt each other at ‘Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am weak’, their pleas of ‘O Lord, heal me’ again overlapping and rising. The soul, ‘sore troubled’, rises chromatically before the two singers beseechingly ask ‘how long wilt thou punish me?’ The mood is briefly lightened by a section in triple metre asking for deliverance, but supplication quickly returns with ‘O, save me’, the music once again building as the vocal entries rise over each other before a brief chorus brings the section to a close.
At ‘For in death no man rememb’reth thee’ the mood darkens further, and Purcell’s marvellous word-painting is again to the fore, graphically illustrating weary ‘groaning’: the writing is especially poignant at ‘every night wash I my bed, And water my couch with my tears.’ The Psalmist’s desolation is complete, for even his ‘beauty is gone for very trouble’: he is ‘worn away because of all mine enemies’. Once again the triple time returns, asking that the Lord should turn ‘and deliver my soul’: the two boys implore they be saved ‘for thy mercy’s sake’, and the chorus again echo their prayer, closing an astonishingly original composition.
from notes by Robert King ©
O Lord, rebuke me not Z40 [7'18]
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