Hyperion Records

How long, great God?, Z189
composer
1688
author of text
The aspiration

Recordings
'Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 5' (CDA66656)
Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 5
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66656  Archive Service; also available on CDS44141/51   Download currently discounted
'Purcell: Mr Henry Purcell's Most Admirable Composures' (CDH55303)
Purcell: Mr Henry Purcell's Most Admirable Composures
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55303  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'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)  
Details
Track 3 on CDH55303 [4'07] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
Track 3 on CDA66656 [3'48] Archive Service; also available on CDS44141/51
Track 3 on CDS44141/51 CD5 [3'48] 11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

How long, great God?, Z189
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John Norris (1657-1711) was a poet, philosopher and rector of Bemerton who was considered to be the last of the Cambridge Platonists, a group which tried to promote a rational form of Christianity in the humanist traditions of Erasmus. Like ‘With sick and famish’d eyes’, his marvellous poem ‘The Aspiration’ received its setting by Purcell during 1688. But whereas George Herbert’s subject is without hope, Norris’s, though similarly imprisoned in life’s torments, sees visionary salvation in words of almost Shakespearean colour and imagination. Purcell responds with one of his finest solo miniatures.

The opening is magical, the voice beginning on a startling discord as he asks God how long he must ‘Immured in this dark prison lie’, the line emphasising ‘how long’ and dropping to its extremities for the ‘dark prison’. Glimmers of harmonic optimism emerge with the ‘grates and avenues of sense’, and continue with the ‘faint gleams of thee’ which, in a delicious vocal line, ‘salute my sight, Like doubtful moonshine in a cloudy night’. The ‘magic sphere’ is tantalisingly harmonised, and the coldness of the clime is warmed as ‘my sense Perceives ev’n here thy influence’. The mood strengthens further as the prisoner feels ‘thy strong magnetic charms’, and the vocal line graphically colours his panting and trembling ‘like the am’rous steel’: the ‘erroneous needle’ of Norris’s compass falls and then, as suddenly, ‘turns and points again to thee’. The section climaxes as he longs ‘to see this excellence’, and the ‘impatient soul’ struggles to free itself. In a lilting triple time, Love is asked to set the prisoner free: full of optimism, the captive would ‘fly, and love on all the way’.

from notes by Robert King ©

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDH55303 track 3
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-89-28803
Duration
4'07
Recording date
10 April 1988
Recording venue
Radley College, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Nicholas Parker
Recording engineer
Nicholas Parker
Hyperion usage
  1. Purcell: Mr Henry Purcell's Most Admirable Composures (CDA66288)
    Disc 1 Track 3
    Release date: April 1989
    Deletion date: September 2006
    Superseded by CDH55303
  2. Purcell: Mr Henry Purcell's Most Admirable Composures (CDH55303)
    Disc 1 Track 3
    Release date: January 2009
    Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
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