Hyperion Records

When on my sick bed I languish, Z144
composer
author of text
A thought of death

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: 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 11 on CDA66656 [4'49] Archive Service; also available on CDS44141/51
Track 11 on CDS44141/51 CD5 [4'49] 11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

When on my sick bed I languish, Z144
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Thomas Flatman (1637-1688) was educated at Winchester and New College, Oxford, and was as famed as a painter of miniatures as he was as a poet. He was the author of the ode set to music by Purcell in 1684, ‘From those serene and rapturous joys’ that celebrated the return of Charles to Whitehall. His Poems and Songs (1674) contained three important works on the subject of death, of which When on my sick bed I languish was one.

The opening text is full of mournful words, and Purcell sets these with great harmonic poignancy, the melody falling towards ‘languish’: the triple-time at ‘fainting, gasping, trembling, crying’ is as desperate and effective as we would expect from this master of word-painting. The solo bass is given the section beginning ‘O tell me, you that have been long below’, but Purcell ingeniously re-arranges the lines of the poem to pre-empt ‘Methinks I hear some gentle spirit say’ with the tenor’s ‘be not fearful, come away’. The melodic interval for the ‘vale of tears’ sadly droops, before a more up-beat chorus ‘attempt the laurel crown’ of heaven: but the final sentiment depressingly reminds us that first they must cross ‘Death’s Rubicon’.

from notes by Robert King ©

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