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Turn thy face from my sins

author of text
Psalm 51: 9-11

Thomas Attwood (1765–1838) became a chorister at the Chapel Royal at the age of nine. By the age of sixteen he had been presented to the Prince of Wales (later to become George IV) who was impressed enough to send him on a course of study abroad in Naples and then in Vienna where he became a pupil of Mozart. Attwood enjoyed consider­able royal patronage (his father had been a trumpeter in the King’s Band) and when he returned to England he became tutor to the Duchess of York and the Princess of Wales. In 1796 he was appointed Organist of St Paul’s Cathedral.

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


The English Anthem, Vol. 7
CDA67087Archive Service


Track 8 on CDA67087 [3'13] Archive Service

Track-specific metadata for CDA67087 track 8

Recording date
10 July 1998
Recording venue
St Paul's Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Hyperion usage
  1. The English Anthem, Vol. 7 (CDA67087)
    Disc 1 Track 8
    Release date: January 1999
    Deletion date: November 2018
    Archive Service
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