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O Lord, grant the king a long life, Z38
author of text
Psalms 61: 6-7; 132: 18

'Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 6' (CDA66663)
Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 6
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'Purcell: The Complete Sacred Music' (CDS44141/51)
Purcell: The Complete Sacred Music
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Track 3 on CDA66663 [8'09] Archive Service; also available on CDS44141/51
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O Lord, grant the king a long life, Z38
O Lord, grant the king a long life appears in the index of Purcell’s collection of anthems in the ‘Royal’ Manuscript but was not, in the event, copied in. Most probably it was written during Charles II’s last illness in the final months of 1685, since the next anthem to appear in the collection is the first Purcell wrote for James II, the coronation anthem My heart is inditing. The work is interesting, for it shows the way in which Purcell’s larger-scale works with orchestra were developing: he utilises a smaller quantity of text, repeating phrases and sentences more often than in earlier anthems, and the music is divided up into more clearly defined sections of greater contrast.

The mellifluous opening Symphony, scored for two violins and continuo, falls into two halves and leads directly into a vocal trio based on the orchestral material, punctuated by chordal Amens from the full choir. The Symphony is played again and leads into the trio ‘He shall dwell before God’, over which Purcell superimposes the two violins to create a five-part texture and antiphonal effects between voices and instruments. Musically the most interesting section is the minor-key movement, ‘O prepare thy loving mercy’, where we find the imploring writing that characterises many of Purcell’s great later works: there are phrases which look forward to the Te Deum and Jubilate of 1694, and a poignant closing instrumental ritornello.

For his final movement Purcell returns to the style of the first trio and chorus, the king’s crown flourishing in a suitably melismatic fashion. Within a few months Charles was dead and Purcell and the royal musical establishment were faced with a monarch for whom they were to discover they had very little love.

from notes by Robert King ©

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