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When David heard

author of text
after 2 Samuel 18: 33

Probably composed as a lament for Henry, the young Prince of Wales who died in 1612, Thomas Tomkins’ When David heard was later published by the composer in a set of madrigals, though it was still sung in religious services. Composed in two sections, the anthem’s power lies in its unexpected shift from third-person description to a first-person outpouring of grief—suddenly and shockingly intimate.

The first section describes King David overcome with grief at the loss of his son, Absalom. Tomkins repeats key words with their musical figures to great effect, focusing on short-term interplay between the parts rather than extended polyphonic lines. The second, longer section puts words directly into the anguished father’s mouth. The music gradually becomes more charged: the tessitura rises, the vocal texture thickens and the music convulses with funereal rhythms and heartbreaking chromatic melodies. As the work begins to subside, there are two beautiful arrival points—the first on the dominant, and the last on the major tonic, perhaps indicating the possibility of cathartic release on the other side of pain.

from notes by Owain Park © 2018


Dialogues of Sorrow
Studio Master: SIGCD210Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
English Madrigals
GIMSE403Gimell (budget price)
English Motets
Studio Master: CDA68256Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Hail, gladdening Light
COLCD113Download only
Music from the reign of King James I
Renaissance Radio
CDGIM212for the price of 1 — Download only
Tomkins: Cathedral Music
Tomkins: The Great Service


Track 9 on CDA67858 [5'17]
Track 4 on CDA68256 [5'12]
Track 5 on CDGIM024 [4'27]
Track 23 on CDGIM212 CD2 [4'27] for the price of 1 — Download only
Track 9 on CDH55066 [5'00]
Track 4 on COLCD113 [5'02] Download only
Track 13 on GIMSE403 [4'26] Gimell (budget price)
Track 18 on SIGCD210 [3'51] Download only

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