Henry Purcell (1659-1695): O praise God in his holiness

By  | March 9, 2012 | 0 Comments | Filed under: Choral Music, Playlists, Series

Henry Purcell'O praise God in his holiness' (Z42) is one my favourite Purcell anthems. Its text is from Psalm 150 with its plentiful references to music and musical instruments and I can't help feeling that Purcell enjoyed composing descant for the first violin that often in the verse sections and that provides a natural link into the lovely dancing instrumental interludes (ritornelli) with which he separates each verse.

The symphony's structure is such that it is clear that Purcell intended the anthem to be played by single strings it's starts with the wistfulness that characterises so much of Purcell's early work. The triple-time second section is more animated preparing us for the joyfulness of the first entry of the voices.

This triple-time breaks at 'Praise him in his noble acts' when upper and lower voices combine to engage in word-painting. Purcell uses each voice to represent one or other of the different instruments with which the Lord is to be praised, thus the higher bass is the trumpet, the tenor is the 'cymbals and dances', and the lower bass the 'well-tuned cymbals', the entire quartet engages in a harmonic shift for the 'lute and harp'. Purcell holds the choir back while all of this build-up is going on right until the final section when the choir bursts in with 'Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord' the soloist, choir, and instruments combine at this point to provide a gratifyingly uplifting finale.

 

Playlist and Text 'O praise God in his holiness' (Z42)

Complete Anthem:

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Part 1: Symphony – O praise God in his holiness

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James Bowman (countertenor), Charles Daniels (tenor), Robert Evans (bass), Michael George (bass)

O praise God in his holiness: praise him in the firmament of his power.

Psalm 150

Part 2: Praise him in his noble acts

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James Bowman (countertenor), Charles Daniels (tenor), Robert Evans (bass), Michael George (bass)

Praise him in his noble acts; praise him according to his excellent greatness.

Praise him in the sound of the trumpet; praise him upon the lute and harp.

Praise him in the cymbals and dances; praise him upon the strings and pipe.

Psalm 150

Part 3: Praise him upon the well-tuned cymbals

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Michael George (bass), James Bowman (countertenor), Charles Daniels (tenor), Robert Evans (bass), New College Choir Oxford

Praise him upon the well-tuned cymbals; praise him upon the loud cymbals.

Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.

Psalm 150

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