Many things changed drastically in England once the Puritan government fell and the monarchy under Charles II was restored. Among the things that changed was that Church music was suddenly allowable again. Among the things that didn’t change was the fact that Latin texts remained distinctly non grata in Anglican churches. This didn’t stop Purcell and Blow1 from composing a few pieces of sacred music in Latin most likely for performance in private. One of these motets is Blow’s setting of Salvator mundi, salva nos (O saviour of the world, save us,) which takes its text from the Office of the Visitation of the Sick.
It’s a wonderfully vivid and responsive piece of music – Blow went to very considerable lengths indeed to match his music to the text, in particular his "dramatic use of the tonally distant B major chord toward the end of the first section" to which he added suspensions, chromaticism, and inversion of pedal points to further achieve the desired effects. The result is surprisingly modern sounding and perhaps in part because of that despite its original private intent it’s now firmly ensconced in the repertoires of Anglican cathedral and college choirs.
John Blow (1649-1708): Salvator mundi, salva nos
|Salvator mundi, salva nos, |
qui per crucem, et sanguinem redemisti nos.
Auxiliare nobis, te deprecamur, Deus noster.
|O saviour of the world, save us, |
who by thy cross and blood hast redeemed us.
Help us, we humbly beseech thee, our God.
Antiphon in the Office of the Visitation of the Sick, Book of Common Prayer
Performers: Westminster Abbey Choir conducted by James O’Donnell.
- You’ll find biographical information about Blow at this previous posting: John Blow (1649-1708): The Lord is my shepherd | Saturday Chorale. ↩