Fly, bold rebellion
was one of Purcell’s early Welcome Songs, composed for Charles II in 1683. The manuscript gives no indication of the date of the first performance, but it seems evident from the anonymous author of the words that it was written shortly after the discovery of the Rye House Plot, which took place in June 1683. The Ode thus would seem likely to have been performed to celebrate Charles’s return from Windsor to Whitehall at the end of June, or perhaps later in the year on his return to London from Winchester (25 September) or Newmarket (20 October). After the splendid two-part Symphony, the Ode contains the already established selection of choruses, trios and solos, interspersed with Purcell’s deliciously scored string ritornelli. One movement in particular stands out: Purcell had an enormous affinity with the alto voice, giving it many of his finest movements, and it is once again for this voice that he set ‘Be welcome then, great Sir’. Over a three-bar walking ground bass the soloist winds an entrancing melody which then develops into a ravishing string ritornello. Elsewhere too there is enchanting string writing: the ritornelli to ‘Rivers from their channels turned’, ‘But Kings, like the sun’ and ‘But Heaven has now dispelled’ are exquisitely crafted. In the concluding chorus ‘Welcome to all those wishes fulfilled’ we find imitative entries in seven parts alternating in real and inverted counterpoint: a final example of Purcell’s extraordinary creative mind.
from notes by Robert King © 2010