The characterful opening immediately catches the supplicatory mood of the text, with the bass’s phrase answered by the first treble, both leaning on the word ‘fainting’. The remaining two voices enter, the tenor set high in its register, allowing it to cross with the two intertwining treble parts, and Purcell gives especial emphasis to ‘implore’. The music becomes homophonic for ‘No traveller’ and drops in tessitura for ‘desert lands’: the rising repetitions of ‘can thirst’ are especially poignant. The first treble takes ‘I long to appear as I was wont’, his lilting triple time leading into the bittersweet false relations of ‘For life itself without thy love’: the repeated word ‘relish’ is harmonised with much affection, as are the ‘choicest dainties’ which give ‘both food and pleasure’. Only the solo bass remains ‘when others sleep’, his expressive semi-recitative leading to the most extraordinary section of the anthem. ‘Dangers, whilst thou art near to me’ leads into sensuous vocal suspensions and daring harmony at ‘do threaten me in vain’, with the four voices moving to within only a fifth of each other at ‘when I keep close’, before a more optimistic mood closes this perfect Purcell miniature.
from notes by Robert King ©
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