Henry Purcell (1659-1695): O consider my adversity Z32

Purcell stamp UK 150x150 Purcell seems to have composed the verse anthem ‘O consider my adversity (Z32)‘ relatively late in his career. It takes its text from eight verses of Psalm 119 setting them mostly for solo trio. It’s a surprisingly large-scale work that Purcell starts by having each voice sing the opening phrase over a descending continuo line and using a dropping interval at ‘consider’ to create an appropriately imploring mood. The trio’s voices move closer together at ‘For I do not forget thy law‘ which creates a bell-like set of suspensions between the two tenors. This mood is changed by the bass’ calling upon God to ‘Avenge thou my cause‘ which call rises through the voices and leads to a triple-time section in which the psalmist calls on God to ‘quicken me according to thy word’. Health, the second tenor informs us, ‘is far from the ungodly‘ (if you listen closely while pondering this you can hear how Purceell uses elements of the opening continuo to underly this part of the anthem) the mood here is pitying rather than angry and is followed by a far more lively trio starting at ‘Great is thy mercy, O Lord’ the trio call up God to quicken them both homphonically and in in imitation before the choir interject asserting that God’s mercy is great and repeating the plea that God inspire and animate them.

There now follows a semi-recitative section in which the bass first recounts that he many enemies ‘that trouble me and persecute me‘ but goes on to state that he remains unswervingly faithful. The tenor interrupts to proclaim that it grieves him to ‘see the transgressors’ which worthy sentiment is taken up by all three soloists. A short lyrical section follows ‘Consider, O Lord, how I love thy commandments…’  which leads into a repeat of the dotted ‘O quicken me’. The legato that follows ‘according to thy loving kindness’ is characterised by some very rich harmonisation and ends with a brief ritornello. The final solo section ‘Thy word is true from everlasting…’ is a vigorous statement of God’s omnipotence passed between the voices and ending with an appropriately majestic flourish before giving way to the closing Gloria with its extraordinarily imaginative counterpoint. Enjoy :-).


Text: O consider my adversity Z32

O consider my adversity and deliver me, for I do not forget thy law.
Avenge thou my cause: O quicken me according to thy word.
Health is far from the ungodly, for they regard not thy statutes.
Great is thy mercy, O Lord: O quicken me as thou art wont.
Many there are that trouble me and persecute me, yet do I not swerve from thy testimonies.
It grieveth me when I see the transgressors, because they keep not thy law.
Consider, O Lord, how I love thy commandments: O quicken me according to thy loving kindness.
Thy word is true from everlasting: all the judgements of thy righteousness endureth for ever.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Psalm 119: 153-60

Performers: Rogers Covey-Crump (tenor), Charles Daniels (tenor), Michael George (bass), King’s Consort Choir