Hyperion Records

Of old, when heroes thought it base, Z333
composer
The Yorkshire Feast Song; An Ode on the Assembly of the Nobility and Gentry of the City and County of York; performed at Merchant Taylors' Hall, London, on 27 March 1690
author of text

Recordings
'Purcell: Odes, Vol. 7 – Yorkshire Feast Song' (CDA66587)
Purcell: Odes, Vol. 7 – Yorkshire Feast Song
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66587  Archive Service; also available on CDS44031/8   Download currently discounted
'Purcell: The Complete Odes & Welcome Songs' (CDS44031/8)
Purcell: The Complete Odes & Welcome Songs
Buy by post £38.50 CDS44031/8  8CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
'Sound the Trumpet' (CDH55258)
Sound the Trumpet
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDH55258  Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service  
Details
Movement 01: Symphony
Track 1 on CDA66587 [2'24] Archive Service; also available on CDS44031/8
Track 1 on CDS44031/8 CD7 [2'24] 8CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 14 on CDH55258 [2'25] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service
Movement 02: Of old, when heroes thought it base
Track 2 on CDA66587 [4'03] Archive Service; also available on CDS44031/8
Track 2 on CDS44031/8 CD7 [4'03] 8CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 03: The bashful Thames, for beauty so renown'd
Track 3 on CDA66587 [4'31] Archive Service; also available on CDS44031/8
Track 3 on CDS44031/8 CD7 [4'31] 8CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 04: The pale and the purple rose
Track 4 on CDA66587 [4'19] Archive Service; also available on CDS44031/8
Track 4 on CDS44031/8 CD7 [4'19] 8CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 05: And in each track of glory since
Track 5 on CDA66587 [3'57] Archive Service; also available on CDS44031/8
Track 5 on CDS44031/8 CD7 [3'57] 8CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 06: Symphony
Track 6 on CDA66587 [2'19] Archive Service; also available on CDS44031/8
Track 6 on CDS44031/8 CD7 [2'19] 8CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 07: And now when the renown'd Nassau
Track 7 on CDA66587 [1'58] Archive Service; also available on CDS44031/8
Track 7 on CDS44031/8 CD7 [1'58] 8CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 08: They did no storms, nor threat'nings fear
Track 8 on CDA66587 [2'05] Archive Service; also available on CDS44031/8
Track 8 on CDS44031/8 CD7 [2'05] 8CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 09: So when the glitt'ring Queen of Night
Track 9 on CDA66587 [4'44] Archive Service; also available on CDS44031/8
Track 9 on CDS44031/8 CD7 [4'44] 8CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 10: Let music join
Track 10 on CDA66587 [1'27] Archive Service; also available on CDS44031/8
Track 10 on CDS44031/8 CD7 [1'27] 8CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 11: Sound trumpets, sound! beat ev'ry drum
Track 11 on CDA66587 [2'34] Archive Service; also available on CDS44031/8
Track 11 on CDS44031/8 CD7 [2'34] 8CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 12: Sound all to him
Track 12 on CDA66587 [1'47] Archive Service; also available on CDS44031/8
Track 12 on CDS44031/8 CD7 [1'47] 8CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

Of old, when heroes thought it base, Z333
EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
In the seventeenth century, it was a regular custom that natives of certain counties and towns and scholars of various schools would meet annually in London. They would attend a church service, and afterwards adjourn for a celebratory feast. Such meetings did not only promote conviviality but also often had benevolent aims—organizations such as the Sons of the Clergy and the Charterhouse Scholars had a strongly charitable base behind their annual gatherings. The Gazette dated Monday 20 January 1689 (using the old style of dating when the year numbering changed on 25 March) contained the following advertisement: ‘The Yorkshire Feast will be held on Friday the 14th February next, at Merchant-Taylors-hall; and a sermon will be at Bow-Church that Morning for the Society.’ In the event, the celebration was postponed, for James II had fled the kingdom just before Christmas and the crown was in abeyance until 13 February, as a supplementary advertisement in the Gazette on 6 February explained: ‘The Yorkshire Feast which was intended to be kept on the 14th Instant, is (by Reason several of the Stewards were members of the late Parliament, who are now obliged to go to the country) put off to the 27th of March next.’

With William and Mary duly crowned there was more topical material available than usual, and the Stewards commissioned the best available author and composer to celebrate in ‘a very splendid Entertainment of all sorts of Vocal and Instrumental Musick’. Thomas D’Urfey included the libretto in his Pills to Purge Melancholy, describing it as ‘An Ode on the Assembly of the Nobility and Gentry of the City and County of York, at the Anniversary Feast, March the 27th, 1690. Set to Musick by Mr. Henry Purcell. One of the finest Compositions he ever made, and cost £100 the performing’. Of old, when heroes thought it base was ostensibly a history of York from Roman times onwards, but it also contained allegories of the Glorious Revolution. Despite D’Urfey’s sometimes contrived text, Purcell responds with music of high quality.

The two-section Symphony is an extensive one, with trumpets, oboes and strings provided with a splendid canzona-like opening, arpeggios rising and falling around Purcell’s lively theme. The second section is a lilting triple-time movement, closely imitative and suitably celebratory. A solo bass, complete with graphic word-painting, begins the story with the Romans (the ‘martial race’) invading Britain, although the audience could hardly have missed the implied reference to the recent replacement of James II by William, and is followed by a short instrumental ritornello and duet for high tenor and bass ‘Brigantium, honour’d with a race divine’. Brigantium was the region which effectively made up the county of Yorkshire, and the reference to Constantine was to the Roman leader whose successful military campaign in Britain led him to be proclaimed emperor by his troops in Eboracum (now the city of York). Once again, Purcell’s treatment of the words, especially the reference to the ‘blooming glories’ is particularly effective and affectionate. Two recorders introduce ‘The bashful Thames’, delightfully running past her ‘puny town’ (London) with glorious harmony at moments such as ‘Augusta [London] then did drooping lie’. Purcell then translates the solo into a most touching chorus, adding beautifully crafted inner parts. Next the story moves on to the Wars of the Roses, fought between the Houses of York and Lancaster between 1455 and 1485. Purcell’s gentle setting of ‘The pale and the purple rose’ is introduced by an extended instrumental ritornello. The bass line ingeniously avoids the first beat of the bar, and over it the oboes and upper strings play a melody of great elegance. When the alto soloist enters with his expressive melody, the off-beat accompaniment is taken up by the all the strings, a device which gives a poignant ending. The following duet ‘And in each track of glory since’ appears to have been especially popular, and was published separately. As in ‘The bashful Thames’ Purcell follows the duet with a choral version, harmonizing the melody with the addition of delicious alto and tenor parts.

The opening joyful Symphony is repeated in full and leads directly into the tenor duet ‘And now when the renown’d Nassau’. This section is a direct reference to William III, one of whose seats was as Count of Nassau in Rheinland-Pfalz. Over a tightly turning bass line the two soloists and two solo trumpets weave a fine movement, full of subtle turns and interesting contrasts. Purcell’s bass duet ‘They did no storms, nor threat’nings fear’ is a splendid, blustering example: the humour in the setting of ‘the grumbling air’ is particularly notable. Next comes one of the most extraordinary movements of the Ode, the tenor solo ‘So when the glitt’ring Queen of Night’. Purcell uses a hypnotic ground bass, just five notes long, also utilized in the main melody. D’Urfey’s text here is inspired, and Purcell’s reaction to it is breathtaking in its calm, nocturnal poise and its ravishing harmonies. The second section in particular is glorious with its pictorialization of ‘the globe that swells’ and the shaft of soft light that Purcell brings by the brief use of the major key at the word ‘ray’. The chorus that follows finds Purcell with a subject that rarely fails to inspire him—that of music. He sets ‘Let music join’ in rich six-part counterpoint, at the midpoint additionally putting the melody into the bass in ingenious double augmentation before a dancing theme brings the movement to a surprisingly speedy ending. The movement ‘Sound trumpets, sound!’ is less subtle, and clearly was intended to set Yorkshire toes tapping with its rollicking rhythm and easily remembered tune, repeated after the soloist by strings and trumpets with the addition of a throbbing bass line, and then, following Purcell’s instructions, repeated ‘over again with all the instruments’. For the last movement Purcell goes into his most ceremonial mode, with a mighty bass solo introducing block chords from the chorus and orchestral fanfares.

from notes by Robert King © 2010

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA66587 track 8
They did no storms, nor threat'nings fear
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-92-58708
Duration
2'05
Recording date
4 December 1991
Recording venue
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Ben Turner
Recording engineer
Antony Howell & Robert Menzies
Hyperion usage
  1. Purcell: Odes, Vol. 7 – Yorkshire Feast Song (CDA66587)
    Disc 1 Track 8
    Release date: June 1992
    Deletion date: November 2005
    Archive Service; also available on CDS44031/8
  2. Purcell: The Complete Odes & Welcome Songs (CDS44031/8)
    Disc 7 Track 8
    Release date: November 1992
    8CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
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