Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 5
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In Let the night perish Job is at his lowest ebb, sitting in a desert covered in sores and bitterly wishing that he never been born. He longs for death to relieve his misery. Armed with such sentiments, Purcell’s setting is graphic. The opening points words such as ‘perish’ and ‘cursed’, and Job prays that the Lord will forget the day of his birth, shrouding ‘its fatal glory in some sullen cloud’. The composer’s dark colouring continues with the ‘dark shades of an eternal night’, which is to exclude all light, and the music groans to illustrate unborn babies dying in the womb at the mere mention of that awful day. Briefly the tone rises for the ‘sounds of joy’, but there is ‘no sun, no moon, no twilight star’, just ‘gloomy darkness’. Word painting abounds: ‘discharg’d’, ‘drop down’, ‘as quiet’ and ‘sorrow’ are all imaginatively illustrated by Purcell. There is a hushed silence before the ‘midnight cry’ rises up an arpeggio, only to be felled by a delicious harmonic slide at ‘oppression’. Job’s vision of the calm that death brings to the weary soul, where the prisoner ‘sleeps in peace’, is illustrated in a short, sad triple-time aria, performed once by the soprano, and then in duet with the bass. The rich are, musically, still higher than the lowly poor, but it is the desolation of the ‘silent chambers of the grave’ which closes the piece.
from notes by Robert King ©