Hyperion Records

My heart is inditing of a good matter, Z30
composer
1685
author of text
Psalms 45: 11, 9, 13-15, 10, 16; 47: 12; Isaiah 49: 23

Recordings
'Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 4' (CDA66644)
Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 4
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66644  Archive Service; also available on CDS44141/51  
'Purcell: The Complete Sacred Music' (CDS44141/51)
Purcell: The Complete Sacred Music
MP3 £35.00FLAC £35.00ALAC £35.00Buy by post £40.00 CDS44141/51  11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
Details
Part 1: Symphony – My heart is inditing of a good matter
Track 12 on CDA66644 [5'09] Archive Service; also available on CDS44141/51
Track 12 on CDS44141/51 CD4 [5'09] 11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Part 2: She shall be brought unto the king
Part 3: Symphony – Hearken, O daughter
Part 4: Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem

My heart is inditing of a good matter, Z30
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The coronation of King James II on 23 April 1685 was an opulent affair which was recorded in profuse detail by Francis Sandford. Trumpeters, drummers and kettle-drummers led the procession to Westminster Abbey, followed by the eight ‘Children of the Choir of Westminster’, the twelve boys of the Chapel Royal (all individually named and including the young Jeremiah Clarke) and the respective adult members of those choirs (32 in number, though not all would have sung: some were organists and choirmasters). The magnificent service in the Abbey was accompanied by a large instrumental ensemble, including the vingt-quatre violons (for once at their full strength – Sandford’s rather inaccurate engravings show some twenty string players), and an organ specially set up in the Abbey by Purcell in his capacity as ‘organ maker and keeper etc.’. An official payments register details the finances: ‘To Henry Purcell for so much money by him disbursed & craved for providing and setting up an Organ in the Abby Church of Westmr for the Solemnity of the Coronacon and for removing the same... £34. 12s. 0d’. And the paymaster? The Secret Service!

Nine anthems were sung, beginning with Purcell’s setting of ‘I was glad when they said unto me’. The scholars of Westminster School sang the ‘Vivats’ from the gallery as the queen entered, and Blow’s anthem Let thy hand be strengthened was performed by all the choirs as ‘their majesties reposed themselves in their chairs of state’. William Turner’s setting of ‘Veni, creator’ was followed by Henry Lawes’s setting of ‘Zadok the priest’; Blow’s anthem Behold, O Lord our defender was performed before the investing, and afterwards Turner’s ‘Deus in virtute’, followed by William Child’s ‘Te Deum’ and Blow’s God sometimes spake in visions. Finally the queen was crowned, and Purcell’s specially-composed setting of My heart is inditing of a good matter was ‘performed by the whole consort of voices and instruments’. It must have made a splendid climax to a fine pageant.

Purcell’s setting was conceived on the largest scale, using four-part strings, eight-part choir and eight soloists. The sound must have been radiant in a crowded Westminster Abbey, for Purcell’s textures, the lower end dominated by three bass chorus parts, the trebles, altos and tenors taking the middle and higher ground and the upper strings giving a wonderful sheen to the ensemble, were magnificent. Anchoring the ensemble was a huge continuo section – in our recording we use no fewer than six bass violins and four theorbos along with the organ (its twentieth-century costs sadly not funded by the Secret Service), producing an extraordinary sound and denuding London, just as the coronation did, of all the best players!

The Symphony to My heart is inditing is on the grandest scale, its opening section majestically spacious, and drawing on the unique sonorities of the royal strings, tuned to their high pitch. The writing for the bass violins is especially effective, keeping them high in their range for the first eighteen bars, and only allowing them to drop to their rich bottom strings late on in the section: the effect is captivating. The triple section dances through adventurous sequences, again exploring sonorities as well as lilting harmonies, and leads straight into the first chorus section. Purcell brings in the voices gradually, allowing the texture to build up slowly to its full eight parts: at ‘I speak of the things’ he uses antiphonal effects between the upper and lower voices, building up chains of suspensions before a brief orchestral ritornello ends the section. Another strongly imitative movement ‘At his right hand’ follows, the pairs of voices joyously dancing in dotted rhythmic figurations at ‘all glorious’, and changing to sumptuous eight-part harmony at the mention of the queen’s magnificently rich ‘clothing of wrought gold’.

The first section of verse writing ‘She shall be brought unto the king’ is for six soloists, with the three upper voices first answered by the lower three before the ensemble joins in six-part harmony. The ‘virgins that follow her’ are pictured in an elegantly dropping phrase before ushering in another dancing, rhythmic section ‘with joy and gladness’, now in seven parts: this is eventually taken up by the full choir and orchestra, the tutti sections separated by joyful instrumental interpolations.

At the mid-point of the anthem the whole opening Symphony is repeated (once Purcell’s orchestra had settled into the occasion a little more comfortably, might they may have played it with even more verve than at the start?). The verse section ‘Hearken, O daughter’ finds Purcell in wistful vein: the pathos of ‘forget also thine own people’ is especially striking and leads to another sumptuous harmonic moment as all eight voices combine at the cadence leading to the new triple section. Here again Purcell begins with antiphony, the lower voices taking ‘instead of thy fathers’ and the upper three answering ‘hearken, O daughter, consider’. When all six voices finally combine the harmony is fulsome, and the thoughtful closing ritornello from the strings especially poignant.

The block chords of ‘Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem’ would have echoed throughout Westminster Abbey, waking even the most tired dignitary (the service would by now have lasted several hours), for here is Purcell at his grandest, writing chords in as many as twelve parts. At ‘For kings shall be thy nursing fathers’ the texture becomes more contrapuntal, the imitataive point busily sounding in every area of the ensemble, contrasted by the closing homophony of ‘and their queens thy nursing mothers’.

Finally comes a spacious ‘Alleluia, Amen’ where two contrasting themes operate simultaneously, the ‘Alleluia’ moving three notes to the bar, the ‘Amen’ slower at bar speed. Gradually the ‘Alleluias’ take over the texture, the entries weaving amongst each other until the music reaches the final phrase of ‘Alleluias’. The whole ensemble joins together, and with block chords which spread sound over three octaves, a coronation anthem of true splendour ends in majestic harmony.

from notes by Robert King ©

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