Henry Purcell (1659-1695): My heart is inditing of a good matter

Mary of  Modena 320x320Purcell’s  ‘My heart is inditing of a good matter‘ was specially composed for the coronation of King James II on April 23rd 1685 and was ‘performed by the whole consort of voices and instruments‘ present in the Abbey once Mary of  Modena had been crowned. As you might expect for such an occasion it’s a very large-scale composition that uses four-part strings, eight-part choir and eight soloists. I like the opening Symphony with its writing for high-pitched strings and bass violins and I like how the triple section dances along as it leads us to the first chorus section. Purcell introduces this slowly the voices come in gradually building to the full eight parts. He uses antiphonal effects between the upper and lower voices at ‘I speak of the things‘  to build up chains of suspensions before ending the section with a brief ritornello. The next section (‘At his right hand …’) has the pairs of voices performing dance-like dotted figurations at ‘all glorious …’ before changing to rich eight-part harmonies to evoke the magnificence of the queen’s apparel ‘Her clothing is of wrought gold’.

Part 2: She shall be brought unto the king

The second part of the anthem’s verse writing starts with a section for six soloists (‘She shall be brought unto the king…’) in which the three upper voices are answered by the lower three following which all six combine in harmony. The dropping musical phrase that portrays the ‘virgins that follow her’  foreshadows a seven-part joyful dance (‘with joy and gladness …’) that is taken up by the full choir and orchestra with cheerful tuttis interleaved with equally cheerful instrumental sections.

Part 3: Symphony – Hearken, O daughter 

The third section is heralded by a repeat of the opening symphony, followed by the wistful ‘Hearken, O daughter…’  that starts the musical description of how the queen will forget her own people and have children ‘Whom thou may’st make princes in all lands‘ there are moments of pathos in this movement such as at ‘forget also thine own people‘ but also moments of strikingly rich harmonies such as when all six voices combine. It ends with a somewhat poignant string ritornello.

Part 4: Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem

The anthem’s final part ‘Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem …’ is Purcell at his most expansive. The service by now would have gone on for several hours and even the most fanatical royalist would surely have begun to droop. He opens with some thoroughly dramatic block chords which give way at  ‘For kings shall be …’  to a more contrapuntal texture which in turn gives way to the homophonic writing of ‘And their queens thy nursing mothers’. He closes the anthem with a magnificently expansive ‘Alleluia|Amen‘ that contains two contrasting themes. The first of these the ‘Alleluia’ moves along briskly in comparison to the slower ‘Amen‘, slowly but surely the ‘Alleluias’ suffuse the entire texture until we reach the final phrase wherein the entire ensemble joins together to sing chords that spread over three octaves bringing the anthem to a ringing close. 

Note on the players: Clicking the graphical player immediately below will play the entire anthem. However I’ve also included each individual part together with its text and performer information for those of you who would like to listen to the individual sections. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland

Texts: My heart is inditing of a good matter Z30

Part 1: Symphony – My heart is inditing of a good matter

[audio:http://saturdaychorale.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/My-heart-is-inditing-of-a-good-matter-Z30-Part-1-1.mp3|titles=Part 1 Sym­phony – My heart is in­dit­ing of a good matt­er]

My heart is inditing of a good matter:
I speak of the things which I have made unto the King.
At his right hand shall stand the Queen all glorious within:
Her clothing is of wrought gold.

Psalms 45: 11, 9, 13-15, 10, 16; 47: 12; Isaiah 49: 23

Part 2: She shall be brought unto the king

[audio:http://saturdaychorale.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/My-heart-is-inditing-of-a-good-matter-Z30-Part-1-2.mp3|titles=Part 2 She shall be brought unto the king]

She shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needlework;
The virgins that follow her shall bear her company.
With joy and gladness shall they be brought,
And shall enter into the King’s palace.

Psalms 45: 11, 9, 13-15, 10, 16; 47: 12; Isaiah 49: 23

Part 3: Symphony – Hearken, O daughter 

[audio:http://saturdaychorale.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/My-heart-is-inditing-of-a-good-matter-Z30-Part-1-3.mp3|titles=Part 3 Symphony – Hearken, O daughter]

Hearken, O daughter, consider, incline thine ear;
Forget also thine own people and thy father’s house.
Instead of thy fathers thou shalt have children
Whom thou may’st make princes in all lands.

Psalms 45: 11, 9, 13-15, 10, 16; 47: 12; Isaiah 49: 23

Part 4: Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem

[audio:http://saturdaychorale.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/My-heart-is-inditing-of-a-good-matter-Z30-Part-1-4.mp3|titles=Part 4 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem ]

Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem: praise thy God, O Sion;
For kings shall be thy nursing fathers,
And their queens thy nursing mothers.
Alleluia. Amen. Psalms 45: 11, 9, 13-15, 10, 16; 47: 12; Isaiah 49: 23

Performers:

Nicholas Witcomb (treble), Jerome Finnis (treble), James Bowman (countertenor), Rogers Covey-Crump (tenor), Charles Daniels (tenor), Robert Evans (bass), Stephen Varcoe (baritone), Michael George (bass), New College Choir Oxford

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