In the intervening period between Weelkes’ output of largely secular madrigals and the church anthems that were to follow, he wrote two remarkable sacred madrigals, O Jonathan
and When David heard
, which were published in 1622. Here Weelkes explores the depths of grief and emotion inherent in King David’s lament over the death of his son (2 Samuel 18:33). The striking textural contrasts, yearning rising phrases, and rich six-part scoring capture these intense emotions. At the end, the subtle shift from minor to major tonality lends an air of acceptance. It is, therefore, perhaps interesting to note that the composer dedicated this anthem to his friend, the poet-priest, Thomas Myriell, who included it in the 1616 manuscript anthology of church music he called Tristitiae remedium
—‘a cure for sadness’.
from notes by Rupert Gough © 2008