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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA66609
Recording details: February 1992
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Ben Turner
Engineered by Philip Hobbs
Release date: May 1992
Total duration: 9 minutes 36 seconds

'The unfamiliar verse anthems come radiantly alive. Surely after this airing several of them will become far more widely performed. I can't wait for Volume 3' (Organists' Review)

'A magical disc. I could not recommend this CD more strongly' (CDReview)

Blessed are they that fear the Lord, Z5
author of text
Psalm 128

Symphony  [2'09]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
At the end of the autograph manuscript of this anthem, held in the British Museum, comes a note, most probably in the hand of the famous bass John Gostling, who would have been the bass singer at the first performance: ‘Composed for the Thanksgiving appointed to be in London & 12 miles round Jan 15. 1687 & on the 29th. following over England for the Queen’s being with Child’. The use of the old style of year dating means that the year was actually 1688, and the work appears to have been a royal commission to celebrate the queen’s pregnancy – the child in question being Prince James Edward, later known as the ‘Old Pretender’. All churches within twelve miles celebrated the ‘solemn and particular office’ on 15 January, and the rest of the country did so a fortnight later. The text, from Psalm 128, was carefully chosen not only to mention the breeding of children, but also to allude to the benefits that would ensue from continuity of the House of Stuart.

Purcell’s first section of the Symphony is gloriously wistful, with the chromatic harmony, full of suspensions, tensioned and anchored by the bass violins’ opening sustained pedal which descends, after five long bars, to the instruments’ richest depths. The dancing triple-time section which follows sets a more lively mood, though is equally harmonically adventurous. The verse sections are set for four voices – two boy trebles, high tenor and bass – giving ample scope for rich vocal textures. The first verse section exploits these sounds, with expressive discords for the word ‘fear’ and melismas used to picture ‘walk in his ways’. After a short ritornello the soloists are cast as different characters: the solo bass takes the role of the husband, striving in the fields (‘For thou shalt eat the labour of thy hands’), the high tenor takes on a commentating role (‘And happy shalt thou be’), and the two trebles, in thirds over a dominant pedal, repeat the phrase ‘O well is thee’. Throughout, Purcell is superbly alive to the expressive text. Gostling would have taken the section for solo bass ‘The Lord thy God from out of Sion’, whose foursquare metre is interrupted by a poignant repetition by the trebles of their phrase ‘O well is thee’. The tenor sings of the peace that Israel’s children’s children will see (and that England hopes to see from the same continued succession) with marvellously rich harmony for each mention of the word ‘peace’, and leads into the most remarkable section of the anthem. The two trebles repeat their touching ‘O well is thee’, and the idea is then taken up as well by the two lower voices, giving rise to sumptuous harmony. The trebles interrupt with a more lively ‘And happy shalt thou be’, and the two contrasting ideas co-exist and seemingly compete before the homophonic triple-time ‘Lo, thus shall the man be blessed’ breaks through.

The imitation of the final ‘Alleluia’ also shows Purcell’s remarkable craftsmanship, with the vocal entries coming closer and closer together until they are replaced by a lively dotted rhythm and short chorus.

from notes by Robert King © 1992

Other albums featuring this work
'Purcell: The Complete Sacred Music' (CDS44141/51)
Purcell: The Complete Sacred Music
MP3 £35.00FLAC £35.00ALAC £35.00Buy by post £40.00 CDS44141/51  11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
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