The principal source for Hear my prayer, O God is a set of partbooks copied around 1683 for Worcester Cathedral. The majority of the setting is for a solo trio of high tenor, tenor and bass, a combination of voices which often inspired Purcell to produce expressive sacred music. Psalm 55 has a particularly mournful text, and the opening trio appeals that God should ‘hide not thyself from my petition’, the lines graphically falling a seventh onto ‘hide’, and with ‘mourn’ set lachrymosely over a plangent bass line. Purcell sets ‘My heart is disquieted within me’ for the two upper voices, bleakly picturing the fear of death which ‘is fallen upon me’. With trepidation the bass recounts the ‘fearfulness and trembling’ which ‘are come upon me’: the section ‘Oh, that I had wings like a dove’ is set for a solo tenor, with a series of particularly inventive melismas for the word ‘fly’. At ‘Lo, then would I get me away’ the trio returns, with ‘I would make haste to escape’ and the ‘stormy wind’ coloured by a series of semiquaver runs.
In extant partbooks the treble line of the final chorus is incomplete: for this recording the missing phrases have been filled in by Robert King.
from notes by Robert King ©