This remarkable verse anthem appears in Purcell’s own hand in the Flackton Manuscript (British Museum Add. MS 30931) and may date from as early as 1680. The verse sections are scored for three soloists: a treble, high tenor and bass. The opening is mournful in tone, the treble crawling out from the lowest depths of his voice and the three voices calling to each other; their cries are further enhanced by false relations and angular intervals in the vocal lines. But there is salvation in God, and first the soloists and then the chorus take up the triple-metre ‘But there is mercy with thee’. The bass solo ‘I look for the Lord’ is a splendid movement, set over a running bass and including two fine melismas on ‘fleeth’ before the trio return with the more positive, major key ‘O Israel, trust in the Lord’. Even here, however, the appealing mood of the opening is not entirely absent, with harmonic tension building during the repetitions of ‘for with the Lord there is mercy’. The chorus enters with a more optimistic section, and the anthem ends confidently.
from notes by Robert King ©