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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: 22 minutes 55 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)

Te Deum and Jubilate in D, Z232
author of text
Te Deum
author of text
Jubilate: Psalm 100

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
For the annual celebrations of St Cecilia’s Day in 1694 Purcell did not produce an ode (which would have been his fifth dedicated to the patron saint of music) but instead produced a setting of the Te Deum and Jubilate which was performed in St Bride’s Church in Fleet Street. Being a major musical occasion, Purcell utilised not only a full string orchestra but also added the brilliant colour of two trumpets to texts which are often celebratory. But alongside the spacious visions of heaven echoing to choirs of angels the texts also have moments of intimacy, giving Purcell an ideal vehicle in which to display his greatest skills, both in compositional devices and in word-painting. Despite the grandeur of the sections for full choir and orchestra it is perhaps the chamber movements which contain the greatest gems.

The opening of the Te Deum is as spacious as one would expect: the two trumpets enter into vigorous dialogue with the strings, whilst the bass violins enjoy their repeated bottom Ds. The trio of male soloists appears first, taking on the trumpets’ vigorous dotted opening motif, and Purcell reserves the full choir for the section ‘All the earth doth worship thee’, where the build-up on ‘all’ is especially effective. Compositional devices abound in the setting, and ‘the Father everlasting’ is the first example of these, with Purcell demonstrating his masterly control of close counterpoint in both voices and instruments.

Pictorialisation too is everywhere: the solo trio melismatically picture the angels crying aloud, two solo boys imitate Cherubim and Seraphim, and the full forces enter for three block-busting chords on the word ‘holy’. Heaven and earth are represented graphically, the alto and high tenor’s dotting covering celestial matters, the bass left alone and low to reflect our earthly state, and the full assembly pictures the full majesty of God’s glory. Next, each of the three male soloists takes on a role: the alto tells of the ‘glorious company of Apostles’, the tenor more lyrically shows the ‘goodly fellowship of the Prophets’, and the bass portrays the firm and ‘noble army of Martyrs’ before once again all join together, trumpets in defiant octaves, to portray the Church throughout the world.

The Holy Trinity is pictured in matched pairs of voices, linked by a pair of solo violins: vocal melismas represent the infinite majesty of the Father, a second pair of boys the Son, and the two alto voices the Holy Ghost. Next comes an extraordinary piece of double counterpoint, ‘Thou art the King of Glory’, where two themes, one strongly rising, the other more rhythmic and falling, combine effortlessly in seven parts, the trumpets rising above the whole ensemble before block chords end the section. A more intimate atmosphere is created with the alto and bass duet ‘When thou took’st upon thee to deliver man’, full of word-painting: the sharpness of death is enhanced with a diminished chord, and the Kingdom of Heaven is opened with a rising phrase before the two boys once again interrupt in close imitation at ‘Thou sittest at the right hand of God’.

A brief trio ‘We believe that thou shalt come to be our judge’ and another interpolation from the boys introduce one of the most remarkable moments of the work. The text is now supplicatory (‘O Lord, save thy people’) and Purcell is immediately on his best territory with ardent repetitions of the word ‘save’. But the finest moment is kept back: with the two octave rising phrase ‘and lift them up for ever’, starting in the bass, transferring to the tenor and finally taken up by the countertenor, rising to the top of his register, we have one of the most glorious vocal phrases in Baroque music. Another short imitative chorus ‘Day by day’ follows, jubilant and ingenious as ever in its tight counterpoint.

The centrepiece of the work, which finds Purcell at his most personal, is ‘Vouchsafe, O Lord’, set for the composer’s favourite countertenor voice. It is a genuine plea from the heart, made all the more poignant when we realise that exactly a year later Purcell himself was dead. Here is the composer at his profound best, piling up sequences and dissonances and pleading for mercy in the most ravishing vocal and string writing. The serenity with which the movement ends, and the strong affirmation of the final chorus, suggests that this is one prayer which may be answered.

Whilst in his setting of the Te Deum Purcell utilises for the most part quite short sections (perhaps because he has a lot of text to set), in the shorter Jubilate he achieves longer musical spans. The opening is an extended duet between the countertenor and a solo trumpet, quite restrained in its joyfulness except in three interruptions by the full orchestra and choir. Once again it is in the more pastoral movements that Purcell shines best, with the duet between boy treble and countertenor ‘Be ye sure that the Lord he is God’ an especially touching one in its simplicity: Purcell’s use of sequence and gentle harmony creates a movement full of pathos. Next comes a rather austere four-part canon, ‘O go your way into his gates’ which is followed by an extended duet for countertenor and bass; again the plea for mercy draws Purcell into particularly effective writing.

The contrapuntal techniques employed in the Gloria are quite breathtaking. First the theme is treated to close imitation (‘Glory be to the Father’), then is inverted and imitated (‘Glory be to the Son’) and then, at ‘World without end’ a new theme is added, treated to the same techniques as before but also stretched out in the bass in a huge and powerful augmentation. At the final Amen the strands come together and, with the trumpets’ entries soaring above the whole choir and orchestra, a work of great technical and musical ingenuity ends in a blaze of sound.

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)  
'Essential Purcell' (KING2)
Essential Purcell
Buy by post £4.50 This album is not yet available for download KING2  Super-budget price sampler  
'The James Bowman Collection' (KING3)
The James Bowman Collection
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) This album is not yet available for download KING3  Super-budget price sampler — Archive Service  
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