Despite his modest achievements in the field of composition—which include some thirty-two operas—Attwood will be remembered not just for his association with Mozart, but also for his friendship with Mendelssohn who wrote his Three Preludes and Fugues for organ for him. Mendelssohn stayed in London at Attwood’s large house on Beulah Hill in South Norwood. Attwood was a founder member of the Philharmonic Society and became one of the first professors at the Royal Academy of Music upon its foundation in 1832. By all accounts he was a charming fellow who had many friends; he did not set out to impress and yet he had a subtle but profound influence upon the English music scene in the nineteenth century.
Turn thy face from my sins is a setting of words from Psalm 51, suitable for Lent. At the end of the eighteenth century the deteriorating taste of English church music was reflected in the introduction of over-ornate solos in verse anthems which, stylistically were borrowed wholesale from opera. Attwood had the good sense not to allow his anthems to lean too far towards the secular musical world and his taste is at its keenest in this short work. A treble soloist sings at the outset, as if it were an aria; the chorus replies and midway through the response Attwood cannot resist the temptation to borrow from opera: the trebles sing ‘renew’, the chorus replies and the basses add their own comment. One can almost imagine this set on stage.
from notes by William McVicker © 1999