In Cry aloud, Blow seems to be trying out alternatives to the formal models found in Humfrey’s anthems. In the symphony, Blow seems to be demonstrating the rival virtues of three national types of contrapuntal writing: traditional English imitation in the first few bars, reminiscent of the full anthem or the viol fantasia, then a burst of brilliant Italianate writing in patterns of semiquavers, and then a triple-time fugal passage in the overture style, the parts entering in order from top to bottom in the French manner. Thereafter, instead of a patchwork of short, contrasted sections, the work is laid out as a single large movement in rondeau form, with the vigorous main passage returning periodically in whole or part, interspersed with episodes of new material. A large unitary structure of this sort, symmetrical in outline but subtly varied in detail, articulated by its themes and harmonies rather than by constant changes of time, was something new in English music, and must have had a profound impact on the young Henry Purcell.
from notes by Peter Holman © 1995