This verse anthem is one of Purcell’s earliest surviving sacred works, maybe written as early as 1677 when the composer would have been only seventeen or eighteen years old. The three verses from Psalm 19 are set for a trio of solo male voices, with the choir entering at the conclusion for the Gloria. Much of the writing is in the imitative style which looks back to church music of the previous fifty years, but nestling amongst these sections are moments which show the strongly emergent harmonic and melodic individuality of the teenage composer. Immediately after the opening phrases, given in turn to each voice and then reiterated by the trio, comes rich harmony and overlapping chains of suspensions for ‘O cleanse thou me from my secret faults’. The more conventional styles of the past return for ‘keep thy servant also from presumptuous sins’, each voice presented with the point, but Purcell’s individuality again comes to the fore with the homophonic writing at the central point of the anthem, ‘Let the words of my mouth’: the strong musical commitment of ‘O Lord, my strength and my redeemer’ is impressive.
The Gloria begins in conventional homophonic style, and we see confident handling of imitative techniques at ‘as it was in the beginning’ before the dropping augmented interval of the final ‘Amen’ provides a serene ending.
from notes by Robert King ©