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What hope for us remains now he is gone?, Z472

composer
1677; On the Death of his worthy Friend Mr. Matthew Lock, musick-composer to his majesty, and organist of Her majestie’s Chappel, who dyed in August 1677
author of text

 
In August 1677 the musicians at the court of Charles II were thrown into mourning with the death of Matthew Locke. Locke was one of the last surviving composers who had come through the Civil War, and his influence on English music had been great, maintaining the peculiarly individual style which distinguished English writing from that on the Continent. He had held four posts as composer at court, private composer to the king, composer for the wind music and composer for the violins, for whom he also became assistant leader. As a chorister Purcell would have sung some of the dozens of anthems written by Locke and, later in life, he copied a number of them into his own manuscripts. Purcell would certainly have met Locke and heard much of his adventurous music, both at court and in the series of theatrical productions for which Locke provided music in the 1670s. Purcell must have known Locke’s style well.

The young Purcell’s tribute to a fine composer was an eloquent ode which, musically, contains many touches of Locke’s style. A copy of the poem, written in Purcell’s own hand, survives in the British Museum; much as the ode is affectionate and indicates that the author had a fair classical education, metrically it shows an inexperienced poetic hand at work. We can only wonder if the words were by Purcell himself. Purcell’s musical setting was published, along with five other songs, in the 1679 publication Choice Ayres and Songs. The text is full of references to Locke’s skill in music (especially referring to his ‘skilful harmony’) which could calm ‘Ev’n ill nature’ and ‘vanquish Death in his own field of Night’. ‘Numbers’ usually refers to metre, but here the term is widened to include all technical aspects of music and poetic rhythm. Purcell’s response was beautifully crafted; there are ravishing moments such as the descending chromatic harmony of ‘From pointed griefs he’d take the pain away’, and ‘His lays to anger and to war could move’ melts wonderfully into ‘Then calm the tempest they had rais’d with love’. The ‘lays’ refer to the story of Timotheus, the Greek musician who was believed to have been able to hypnotize and control even Alexander the Great with his playing. Equally attractive is the phrase ‘And with soft sounds to gentle thoughts incline’ whose descending bass line subtly introduces Purcell’s musical pun. With his mention of the lyre the author is representing Locke as Orpheus. The setting is for solo voice, but Purcell introduces a bass singer for the concluding ‘chorus’.

from notes by Robert King © 2003

Recordings

Purcell: Secular solo songs, Vol. 1
CDA66710Archive Service; also available on CDS44161/3
Purcell: The complete secular solo songs
CDS44161/33CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

Details

Track 5 on CDA66710 [3'02] Archive Service; also available on CDS44161/3
Track 5 on CDS44161/3 CD1 [3'02] 3CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

Track-specific metadata for CDS44161/3 disc 1 track 5

Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-94-71005
Duration
3'02
Recording date
29 March 1994
Recording venue
Orford Church, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Ben Turner
Recording engineer
Philip Hobbs
Hyperion usage
  1. Purcell: Secular solo songs, Vol. 1 (CDA66710)
    Disc 1 Track 5
    Release date: March 1994
    Deletion date: February 2010
    Archive Service; also available on CDS44161/3
  2. Purcell: The complete secular solo songs (CDS44161/3)
    Disc 1 Track 5
    Release date: November 2003
    3CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
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