Sir Edward Bairstow (1874-1946) was organist at York Minster for thirty-three years from 1913 until his death and was the composer of some of the most impressive anthems in the Cathedral repertoire. His music is to be found in every cathedral music library, if not every parish choir library in the land; scarcely a month in the life of any choral foundation will pass without Bairstow's music being represented in the music lists. Why is this so? The answer is partly to be found in this short anthem. Bairstow was able to create a sense of atmosphere in his music and generally allows the great spaces of a cathedral to be evoked by dramatic or intimate musical gestures which reflect his immaculate attention to the expression of the text he has set. Examples of this are the 'alleluias' of Let all mortal flesh
or the series of cadences and tempo changes in Blessed City
The seventeenth-century Latin hymn, Jesu, grant me this, I pray, set to music by Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625) and sometimes known as 'Song 13', is sung here in an arrangement by Bairstow. The treatment is that of 'fauxbourdon', originally involving a wide variety of specific technical devices but latterly implying a series of variations on the initial melody. Bairstow's craftsmanship is evident: his sweeping independent phrases in verse 3 expressing the temptation of flesh but coming to rest in Christ's 'wounded side' at the end of the verse. The darkness created in verse 4 (with the melody sung by the basses) is counter-balanced by rich harmony matching the sentiment expressed in the text. In essence these are simple devices, but handled by a craftsman and exponent of the miniature.
from notes by William McVicker © 1994