Hyperion Records

Be merciful unto me, Z4
author of text

'Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 8' (CDA66686)
Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 8
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'Purcell: The Complete Sacred Music' (CDS44141/51)
Purcell: The Complete Sacred Music
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Track 9 on CDA66686 [7'10] Archive Service; also available on CDS44141/51
Track 9 on CDS44141/51 CD8 [7'10] 11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

Be merciful unto me, Z4
Though Be merciful unto me appears in dozens of manuscripts, some of which date from the end of the seventeenth century, it is not possible to date this verse anthem accurately. Watkins Shaw has argued that it was written before 1687 and maybe as early as 1683. Certainly a number of anthems scored for similar forces (a solo trio and continuo, with a small amount of chorus work) date from around 1680-83.

The opening trio is gloriously scored, full of rich harmony and plangent vocal lines: the writing becomes more active at ‘he is daily fighting and troubling me’, with ‘fighting’ set to a series of busy roulades. The same word is imaginatively illustrated by the solo bass in the following section of semi-recitative. The trio of soloists return for the triple-time ‘I will praise God because of his word’, which is then taken up by the full choir. A short declamatory passage for the tenor introduces a most effective section, ‘They hold all together, and keep themselves close’. Purcell introduces taut suspensions and groups the voices close together before he graphically illustrates God, in his displeasure, casting the evil ‘down, down, down’. At ‘In God’s word will I rejoice’ the key changes to the major. Purcell’s final verse section is an optimistic trio which is closed by an expansive series of choral alleluias.

from notes by Robert King ©

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