Hyperion Records

I will give thanks unto the Lord, Z21
circa 1685
author of text
Psalm 111: 1-4, 6-9

'Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 10' (CDA66707)
Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 10
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'Purcell: The Complete Sacred Music' (CDS44141/51)
Purcell: The Complete Sacred Music
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Track 1 on CDA66707 [9'53] Archive Service; also available on CDS44141/51
Track 1 on CDS44141/51 CD10 [9'53] 11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

I will give thanks unto the Lord, Z21
This was one of two anthems listed by Purcell in his index to his fair-copy autograph score (the ‘Royal’ manuscript in the British Museum) but which he never copied in. ‘I will give thanks’ may date from around 1685, when Purcell stopped copying works into the volume. The actual source is an early eighteenth-century manuscript, held in the Royal College of Music (MS 2011), which contains fourteen anthems by Purcell. The scoring is unusual, requiring a tenor and two basses as soloists: there is no viola part.

The opening Symphony is a fine piece of work, elegant in the dotted, dancing rhythms which so pleased Charles II, but with the wistfulness that is such a feature of Purcell’s string writing never far beneath the surface. The first joyful vocal entries overlap the Symphony, dropping in tessitura for ‘secretly among the faithful’ before they are overtaken by the strings for a wonderfully lilting ritornello, full of Purcell’s imaginative, unexpected harmonic and melodic twists. A solo bass praises the greatness of God’s works, accompanied by the two violins, before the three voices return for ‘his work is worthy to be praised’. Each voice in turn holds a single note to illustrate God’s righteousness enduring ‘for ever’ before the chorus enter, taking up the same joyful triple metre: the strings repeat their earlier, glorious ritornello. ‘He hath showed his people the power of his works’ is set for a solo tenor and the two violins, once again demonstrating Purcell’s inimitable melodic style and, for the word ‘all’, passing the note between soloist and instruments. For ‘They stand fast for ever and ever’ Purcell changes the time to a more spacious duple metre, contrasting imitation with homophonic interchanges between voices and instruments. At ‘Holy and reverend is his name’, Purcell introduces a magically hushed texture, first with the three soloists alone and then, to close, with choir and instruments.

from notes by Robert King ©

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