Hyperion Records

Blessed are they that fear the Lord, Z5
composer
1688
author of text
Psalm 128

Recordings
'Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 2' (CDA66609)
Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 2
MP3 £4.00FLAC £4.00ALAC £4.00Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66609  Archive Service; also available on CDS44141/51   Download currently discounted
'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
Track 1 on CDA66609 [2'09] Archive Service; also available on CDS44141/51
Track 1 on CDS44141/51 CD2 [2'09] 11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Part 2: Blessed are they that fear the Lord
Track 2 on CDA66609 [3'24] Archive Service; also available on CDS44141/51
Track 2 on CDS44141/51 CD2 [3'24] 11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Part 3: The Lord thy God from out of Sion shall so bless thee
Track 3 on CDA66609 [2'51] Archive Service; also available on CDS44141/51
Track 3 on CDS44141/51 CD2 [2'51] 11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Part 4: Alleluia

Blessed are they that fear the Lord, Z5
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At the end of the autograph manuscript of this anthem, held in the British Museum, comes a note, most probably in the hand of the famous bass John Gostling, who would have been the bass singer at the first performance: ‘Composed for the Thanksgiving appointed to be in London & 12 miles round Jan 15. 1687 & on the 29th. following over England for the Queen’s being with Child’. The use of the old style of year dating means that the year was actually 1688, and the work appears to have been a royal commission to celebrate the queen’s pregnancy – the child in question being Prince James Edward, later known as the ‘Old Pretender’. All churches within twelve miles celebrated the ‘solemn and particular office’ on 15 January, and the rest of the country did so a fortnight later. The text, from Psalm 128, was carefully chosen not only to mention the breeding of children, but also to allude to the benefits that would ensue from continuity of the House of Stuart.

Purcell’s first section of the Symphony is gloriously wistful, with the chromatic harmony, full of suspensions, tensioned and anchored by the bass violins’ opening sustained pedal which descends, after five long bars, to the instruments’ richest depths. The dancing triple-time section which follows sets a more lively mood, though is equally harmonically adventurous. The verse sections are set for four voices – two boy trebles, high tenor and bass – giving ample scope for rich vocal textures. The first verse section exploits these sounds, with expressive discords for the word ‘fear’ and melismas used to picture ‘walk in his ways’. After a short ritornello the soloists are cast as different characters: the solo bass takes the role of the husband, striving in the fields (‘For thou shalt eat the labour of thy hands’), the high tenor takes on a commentating role (‘And happy shalt thou be’), and the two trebles, in thirds over a dominant pedal, repeat the phrase ‘O well is thee’. Throughout, Purcell is superbly alive to the expressive text. Gostling would have taken the section for solo bass ‘The Lord thy God from out of Sion’, whose foursquare metre is interrupted by a poignant repetition by the trebles of their phrase ‘O well is thee’. The tenor sings of the peace that Israel’s children’s children will see (and that England hopes to see from the same continued succession) with marvellously rich harmony for each mention of the word ‘peace’, and leads into the most remarkable section of the anthem. The two trebles repeat their touching ‘O well is thee’, and the idea is then taken up as well by the two lower voices, giving rise to sumptuous harmony. The trebles interrupt with a more lively ‘And happy shalt thou be’, and the two contrasting ideas co-exist and seemingly compete before the homophonic triple-time ‘Lo, thus shall the man be blessed’ breaks through.

The imitation of the final ‘Alleluia’ also shows Purcell’s remarkable craftsmanship, with the vocal entries coming closer and closer together until they are replaced by a lively dotted rhythm and short chorus.

from notes by Robert King © 1992

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDS44141/51 disc 2 track 4
Part 4: Alleluia
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-92-60904
Duration
1'12
Recording date
28 February 1992
Recording venue
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Ben Turner
Recording engineer
Philip Hobbs
Hyperion usage
  1. Purcell: The Complete Anthems and Services, Vol. 2 (CDA66609)
    Disc 1 Track 4
    Release date: May 1992
    Deletion date: July 2010
    Archive Service; also available on CDS44141/51
  2. Purcell: The Complete Sacred Music (CDS44141/51)
    Disc 2 Track 4
    Release date: November 2002
    11CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
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