Vital spark of heav'nly flame

composer
A Set of Hymn and Psalm Tunes, London, c1765
author of text
The Dying Christian to his Soul

 
Vital spark of heav’nly flame, a setting of Pope’s poem ‘The Dying Christian to his Soul’ by Edward Harwood, is one of the most famous pieces of psalmody. Harwood was a weaver from Hoddlesdon near Darwen in Lancashire who supposedly ‘went to Liverpool to sing in one of the churches there, and sang until he burst a blood vessel’; he is buried at St Peter’s Church, Liverpool. ‘Vital spark’ was often performed by nineteenth-century parish choirs in four-part adaptations, though Harwood’s original uses the three-part ‘trio sonata’ writing associated with Nonconformists. Much of the vocal writing is surprisingly sophisticated and elaborate for a provincial amateur, and suggests the influence of the ‘sensibility’ style of German composers such as C P E Bach. For this reason we have allocated most of the piece to solo voices with organ continuo, interpreting a mysterious change to four-part writing at the end as the entrance of a choir.

from notes by Peter Holman © 1998

Recordings

Vital Spark of Heav'nly Flame
CDA67020Archive ServiceDownload currently discounted

Details

Track 2 on CDA67020 [4'10] Archive Service

Track-specific metadata for CDA67020 track 2

Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-98-02002
Duration
4'10
Recording date
12 September 1997
Recording venue
St Mary the Virgin, Stoke-by-Nayland, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Martin Compton
Recording engineer
Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Hyperion usage
  1. Vital Spark of Heav'nly Flame (CDA67020)
    Disc 1 Track 2
    Release date: March 1998
    Deletion date: May 2013
    Archive Service