Movement 1: Symphony
Movement 2: Raise, raise the voice, all Instruments obey
Movement 3: The God himself says he'll be present here
Mary Seers (soprano), Andrew Tusa (tenor), Michael George (bass), The King's Consort, Robert King (conductor)
Movement 4 (extract): Mark how readily each pliant string
Movement 4: Mark how readily each pliant string
Purcell’s Symphony to Raise, raise the voice is as adventurous and ingenious as ever, creating a rich texture from what is only a trio sonata grouping. After the stately first section comes a busy contrapuntal movement, full of angular writing and close imitation, and leading straight into the anonymous author’s Ode. Word-painting is immediately to the fore, with the phrase rising as the words suggest (‘Raise, raise the voice’), and a reference to the lute’s ‘softest notes’ giving immediate inspiration to the continuo players. The full ensemble joins together in an unusual Purcellian texture: with no countertenors and no viola, the usual centre to the texture needs replacing, so Purcell keeps the tenor parts high, and provides the first violin with a descant above the sopranos before an instrumental ritornello rounds off the movement. A short soprano solo leads into the chorus ‘Crown the day with Harmony’, which is rounded off by the pretty Ritornello Minuet.
The centrepiece of the Ode is another remarkable ground bass, a jaunty setting of ‘Mark how readily each pliant string’, where Purcell’s insistently cheerful four-bar bass forms the background for a splendidly characterful soprano solo. The ‘pliant string’ prepares itself to a jazzy rhythm, the offering ‘of some gentle sound’ slinkily rises up the chromatic scale and, invited by the words ‘Then altogether’, first the two violins join the texture ‘in harmonious lays’, and then the whole chamber ensemble—with a wonderful line for the tenors. The best is yet to come, for the two violins’ closing ritornello caps the movement with some of the most extraordinary instrumental writing in Purcell’s entire output of Odes. Here is music of astonishing originality, breathtaking in seemingly breaking all the rules of harmony and counterpoint and still somehow ending in the right key!
from notes by Robert King © 2010