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I will love thee, O Lord, ZN67
circa 1679
author of text
Psalm 18: 1-6, 16-18

'Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 6' (CDA66663)
Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 6
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66663  Archive Service; also available on CDS44141/51   Download currently discounted
'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 7 on CDA66663 [6'05] Archive Service; also available on CDS44141/51
Track 7 on CDS44141/51 CD6 [6'05] 11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

I will love thee, O Lord, ZN67
A letter dated 8 February 1679 from Thomas Purcell to John Gostling, at that time Chanter at Canterbury Cathedral, mentions that Gostling ‘may have a summons to appear among us sooner than you imagine’, and indeed, on 25 February, Gostling was given an appointment at the Chapel Royal. But of more interest to us is that Gostling was told in the same letter that ‘my son is composing wherein you will be chiefly concerned.’ The Purcell scholar Zimmerman suggests that the young Purcell was writing an anthem for Gostling, and it seems possible that the work in question may have been the verse anthem I will love thee, O Lord. Certainly there are neat parallels between the chosen biblical subject matter of David and Absalom and the political situation of Charles II at that time, fighting off the first of Monmouth’s uprisings, and the musical writing would appear to date from around 1680. For original manuscripts we are not best served: that in Oxford’s Bodleian Library is not a reliable source, and Purcell’s name is added in a later hand than that of the copyist. Instead, scholars have turned to a manuscript held in Gloucester, where the solo bass part is complete and the attribution to Purcell apparently more contemporary.

Whatever the anthem’s source or exact date of composition, it is a vocal tour de force for the solo bass, mixing sections of semi-recitative with passages of arioso. The opening declaims the psalmist’s faith in God’s mighty strength: in the short aria he sings of the protection that God brings him from his enemies. The full choir also comment that in times of tribulation ‘the Lord was my upholder.’ The text becomes more sombre, and Purcell’s writing more striking: melismatically the composer surrounds the psalmist with mournful ‘sorrows of death’, and builds tension through ‘the pains of hell’ and the ‘snares of death’. In a chromatically rising phrase he calls upon the Lord, and then, with great force, complains ‘unto my God’. ‘So shall he hear my voice’ is set to another passage of lilting arioso, leading to the remarkable phrase ‘For he shall send down from on high to fetch me’, which traverses one and a half octaves. But a moment of even greater strength is still to come, with the four rising repetitions of ‘for they are too mighty for me’ which take the voice to its uppermost reaches. The anthem closes with the repetition of the short chorus ‘They prevented me in the day of my trouble.’

from notes by Robert King ©

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Details for CDS44141/51 disc 6 track 7
Recording date
22 April 1993
Recording venue
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Ben Turner
Recording engineer
Philip Hobbs & Lindsay Pell
Hyperion usage
  1. Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 6 (CDA66663)
    Disc 1 Track 7
    Release date: September 1993
    Deletion date: September 2008
    Archive Service; also available on CDS44141/51
  2. Purcell: The Complete Sacred Music (CDS44141/51)
    Disc 6 Track 7
    Release date: November 2002
    11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
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