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Beati omnes qui timent Dominum, Z131
author of text
Psalm 128: 1-5

'Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 7' (CDA66677)
Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 7
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66677  Archive Service; also available on CDS44141/51  
'Purcell: The Complete Sacred Music' (CDS44141/51)
Purcell: The Complete Sacred Music
Buy by post £40.00 CDS44141/51  11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
Track 3 on CDA66677 [4'29] Archive Service; also available on CDS44141/51
Track 3 on CDS44141/51 CD7 [4'29] 11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

Beati omnes qui timent Dominum, Z131
We are not certain when Purcell actually married Frances Peters but, from the baptismal registers of the Church of All Hallows the Less for 9 July 1681, which state that ‘Henry son of Henry and Frances Purssell’ was baptised there (the youngster survived only a few days), we can assume that Purcell must have married the previous year, perhaps during the summer. Purcell only wrote three anthems in Latin, for there was no call for such Catholic texts at the Chapel Royal: instead, for the reason for the short, four-part anthem Beati omnes qui timent Dominum we need to look elsewhere. It seems likely that Purcell may have written the work for his own wedding. Frances came from a well-known Catholic family to whom a Latin text would have been quite acceptable, and the text, taken from Psalm 128, was certainly suited to such an occasion: ‘Thy wife shall be as the fruitful vine upon the walls of thine house; Thy children like the olive branches round about thy table’.

The triple-time opening is gentle in nature, and well suited to performance by a small consort of singers: at ‘Labores manuum tuarum’ (‘thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands’) the metre changes, and ‘Beatus es, et bene tibi erit’ (‘O well is thee and happy shalt thou be’) is especially affectionately set with gently discordant false relations. The bass is given the majority of the middle section of the anthem as he talks of his wife being ‘as the fruitful vine’ (perhaps an autobiographical indication that Purcell, when he sang in the choir, was a bass), surrounding ‘lateribus domus’ (‘the walls of thine house’) with two melismas, and a solo treble is, suitably, given ‘Filii tui sicut novellae olivarum’ (‘Thy children like the olive branches’). The four voices return at ‘Ecce, sit benedicetur homo’ and lead into the closing alleluias. Here Purcell builds up from a simple beginning to a florid series of interchanges between the four voices before the final bars return to more conventional block harmony.

from notes by Robert King ©

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