Henry Purcell (1659-1695): The Lord is my light

This anthem probably dates from 1683, two autograph versions of it survive an early rough draft in the Barber Institute (MS 5001), and a fair copy copied out by Purcell himself into the celebrated ‘Royal Manuscript’. It’s a lovely piece of work with a fine opening Symphony, some delightful harmonies, dramatic solo writing, and a…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): O, I’m sick of life

Purcell’s devotional trio O, I’m sick of life (Z140), is his setting of one of George Sandys’ paraphrases of the book of Job. It’s a brilliant piece of music, in which Purcell who loved a good musical wallow when he could get one was presented with the ideal text for a really good long wallow…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Save me, O God

This wonderful five line anthem is an early composition – I’m not able to give a precise date but it certainly predates the the Gosling partbooks which places its composition date in the late 1670s –  it was composed in other words when Purcell was still a teenager. The anthem’s opening line shows the inflluence…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Remember not, Lord, our offences

Purcell’s five-part full anthem Remember not, Lord, our offences (z50) is one of his masterpieces. It dates from around 1680 and makes highly effective use of harmony, discord, word-setting, and drama, in a piece of music shorter than the first movements of many of  his other sacred works. The anthem’s atmosphere is highly charged from…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Sleep, Adam, and take thy rest

Purcell set ‘Sleep, Adam, and take thy rest’ (Z195) in 1683 – which makes it his earliest solo devotional song. ‘Sleep Adam’s’ lyricist is unknown but whoever they were they were surely pleased with Purcell’s use of highly evocative pictorialisation which does full justice to the text. The song opens with the peacefully sleeping Adam…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Unto thee will I cry

This magnificent anthem is to be found in that most important of Purcell’s autograph collections copied before 1685 – the ‘Royal’ manuscript. I can’t give you an exact composition date but between stylistic factors – such as the writing for strings, and the fact that it’s in the ‘Royal’ manuscript it’s safe to say that…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Awake ye dead

This week’s posting in my series dealing with Purcell’s  religious music deals with the bass duet ‘Awake ye dead’ (Z 182) the second of only two pieces of Purcell’s music that sets lyrics by his collaborator who provided the librettor for the opera Dido and Aeneas and the lyrics for Purcell’s last four odes the…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Hosanna to the highest

Even by Purcell’s standards Hosanna to the highest is a startlingly original piece of music. It’s characterised by its almost hypnotic use of a four bars long ground bass whose stark simplicity is repeated slowly no less than fifteen times. Purcell uses it to anchor the solo bass the effect in total being one of…