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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: 14 minutes 39 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)

My song shall be alway, Z31
1690 ?
author of text
Psalm 89: 1, 5-9, 13-15

Symphony  [1'36]
Symphony  [1'31]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
My song shall be alway exists in two versions – one for solo soprano, the other for solo bass. The first printed score is not until Playford’s Harmonia Sacra (1703) but no source suggesting soprano exists from before this time, whereas at least three, all scored clearly for bass, date from before then. It may be reasonable to assume therefore that Playford was responsible for the re-scoring for soprano. In any case, there is no difference between the two versions save in register, but the most authoritative early manuscript, held in the Bodleian Library and probably copied in the hand of Henry Knight of Wadham College, is in the bass version, carefully annotated and even bearing the inscription ‘H.P. Sep: 9/90’, from which scholars have dated the work.

The anthem is unusual in many ways. Despite being composed on a large scale, there is, after the opening Symphony (repeated at the mid-point), almost nothing for the upper strings to do. The choir is treated even more lightly, singing only two brief and identical Alleluias. The Symphony is however a fine one, with the opening rising arpeggio creating a rich texture over its sustained bass notes, and the harmonies of the lilting triple-time reminiscent at times of the music of Georg Muffat, whose Armonico Tributo was influencing the early development of the concerto grosso during the 1680s. Although the style of the Symphony is still clearly that of Purcell, this late anthem does show interesting contrasts with the string writing of earlier works. After the Symphony, the solo bass dominates, first in a tuneful arioso movement, but then, more characterfully, in the first section of recitativo, ‘O Lord, the very heavens’. Here we find Purcell at his most Italianate, heavily influenced by the century’s developments in opera, changing pace and mood with great subtlety. A more lively section follows (‘For who is he among the clouds’), full of imitation between soloist and continuo, and concluded by the shortest of ritornelli, before the recitativo style returns at ‘God is very greatly to be feared’, with an especially poignant colouring used for the word ‘reverence’. The choir briefly interrupt with seven bars of triple-time Alleluias, and the strings repeat the Symphony.’

‘O Lord God of hosts’ finds Purcell at his most imaginative in this style, poised and dramatic – straight out of Monteverdi in the sustained high notes, under-pinned by a descending continuo scale, that mark the word ‘mighty’. Here is music that would be completely at home in the opera house. Next Purcell pictures the raging sea in splendidly descriptive fashion, full of running semiquavers and blustering effects. ‘Thou hast a mighty arm’ is perhaps less remarkable, set over a modulating ground bass, but the writing at ‘mercy and truth shall go before thy face’ is delicious in its ‘blue’ harmonies. As is so often the case, Purcell’s concluding ‘Alleluia’ is restrained and quietly understated, all the more effective for being so, and beautifully shaped in its bloom towards the end. It is then left to the choir to repeat their earlier Alleluia.

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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