Lord, I can suffer thy rebukes is an early work, dating probably from around 1680, and one of nine settings that Purcell made of John Patrick’s paraphrases of psalms. The scoring is for four solo voices and the opening mood desolate in the extreme. A pleading, lone treble begins, his chromatic inflection on ‘O’ especially effective, setting the scene for a remarkable passage of four-part writing, ‘Pity my languishing estate’: the dropping chromaticism, augmented triads and overlapping vocal entries are unbearably tortured in their anguish, and there is no let-up with the increasingly extreme intervals to which Purcell sets the word ‘crush’. The bass briefly relieves the tension, but with the return of the two trebles, mournfully passing their ‘weary days in sighs and groans’, we are again in the depths of despair, graphically drowning ‘my bed and self in tears’, grief consuming the two boys in wonderfully intertwining vocal lines. But hope is at hand, and the two lower voices forcefully banish the ‘wicked foes’: the enemy turns away in confusion, the full ensemble celebrates the Lord hearing their prayers, and then rejoices in a final Alleluia.
from notes by Robert King ©