Movement 1: Symphony
Movement 2: From those serene and rapturous joys
Movement 3: Behold th' indulgent Prince is come
Movement 4: Not with an Helmet or a glitt'ring Spear
Movement 5: Welcome as soft refreshing show'rs
Movement 6: Welcome, more welcome does he come
Movement 7: Nor does the Sun more comfort bring
Movement 8: With trumpets and shouts we receive the World's Wonder
The opening of yet another splendid Symphony immediately finds this mood in Purcell’s characteristically rich string sonorities, countered by a busy and characterful second section. The tranquil opening verse of the Ode, extolling the virtues of a quiet country life, is set for solo countertenor (probably sung in 1684 by the famous William Turner), with the ‘rapturous joys’ given a particularly expressive melisma, and then transformed and extended into a glorious string ritornello, full of Purcell’s inimitable harmonic and melodic twists. A bass spiritedly announces the arrival of ‘th’ indulgent Prince’, accompanied by two violins, and is joined in his welcome by the full ensemble in elegantly swinging triple time. Two sopranos prettily tell of the King’s peaceful conquest of his subjects before we are treated to another fine string ritornello, this time buoyant and energetic. ‘Welcome as soft refreshing show’rs’ gives another demonstration of the astonishing vocal range of John Gostling, Charles II’s favourite bass singer, and the chorus repeat their swinging chorus ‘Welcome home’.
Once again it is a ground bass which produces the most remarkable movement of the Ode, ‘Welcome, more welcome does he come’. The ground is unusual for Purcell in that it has rests at both the beginning and end, allowing him the option either of overlapping this hole by the voice, which he does on most occasions, or inserting a most effective pause. Combined with the ravishing string ritornello that follows the tenor solo, we have here yet another example of the genius of Purcell. The duet that follows, ‘Nor does the Sun more comfort bring’, is enrichened by the addition of a violin part, effectively creating a third voice, and by the short but sumptuous string playout. The final movement is a rumbustious one, ‘With trumpets and shouts’, which alternates between strings and a solo tenor before it is finally taken up by the whole ensemble. On this occasion, however, the jollity was short-lived. Within a few months, as the diarist John Evelyn noted, the ‘inexpressible luxury, and profaneness, gaming and all dissoluteness’ that had marked Charles’s reign came to a sudden end on 2 February 1685, with a fit of apoplexy. Four days later ‘was all in the dust’ and a less dissolute, but far less popular, monarch suddenly became Purcell’s new employer.
from notes by Robert King © 2010