Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Thy word is a lantern unto my feet

This beautifully balanced work seems to be one of Purcell’s relatively late works.  Based in the number of manuscripts in Cathedral libraries that day from when Purcell was alive and for the twenty years after his death this must have been a particularly popular work amongst British cathedrals’ choirs. It’s not hard to see why…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Great God, and just

This week’s entry in my series dealing with Purcell’s religious music deals with his setting of ‘Great God, and just’ (Z186) a poem by Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667). Taylor had been a chaplain to  Charles I, was captured and imprisoned during the Civil War, his fame a writer of religious texts spread and he was imprisoned…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Early, O Lord, my fainting soul

This week’s posting in my series covering Purcell’s religious music is  "Early, O Lord, my fainting soul" (Z132). It’s another of Purcell’s settings of psalm paraphrases by John Patrick. Purcell composed it around 1680 setting it for four voices, it’s full of subtle harmonies and delicate music highlighting the text. To my mind it’s one…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): The earth trembled

Like much of his poetry Francis Quarles‘ (1592-1644) poem ‘The earth trembled’  was far more popular with the public than it was with the critics. It was so popular that Purcell set it to music. Despite – perhaps because of, the enormity of the events portrayed in Quarles’ text Purcell chose a very restrained setting…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): I was glad when they said unto me

The first setting Purcell made of ‘I was glad when they said unto me’ dates from 1682 or 1683, it takes its text from Psalm 122 which is associated both with coronations and any occasion on which prayers for peace and national prosperity would have been appropriate. Purcell’s approach to the text is somewhat understated…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Hear my prayer, O Lord

I run out of superlatives very quickly whenever I start to discuss ‘Hear my prayer, O Lord’, (Z15) Purcell’s musical imagination, his genius, was at its highest when he wrote it. I’ve written about ‘Hear my prayer, O Lord’, and the Dresdner Kreuzchor’s marvellous performance of it before (see: Sunday Playlist: Henry Purcell – Hear…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Bow down thine ear, O Lord

This is another one of Purcell’s early – and remarkable, works. ‘Bow down thine ear, O Lord’ is one of the anthems copied out in Purcell’s own hand. It’s the fourth of the anthems in Purcell’s autograph manuscript held in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, which puts the date he copied it at 1682 by the…