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): 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…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Since God so tender a regard

‘Since God so tender a regard’ (Z 143) is one of Purcell’s settings of the poet John Patrick’s psalm paraphrases. It’s set for three male voices and probably dates from around 1680. It’s slightly unusual in that Purcell uses an eight-note bass line to anchor the anthem and overcame any danger that this might be…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): O God, thou art my God

This week’s posting in my series dealing with Purcell’s religious music deals with a relatively early work. Purcell composed O God, thou art my God (Z35) sometime during 1680-1682. If its rapid spread throughout the cathedrals, churches, universities and schools of England is anything to judge by it was something of a smash hit. It…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Be merciful unto me

It’s not known when Purcell composed Be merciful unto me (Z4) sometime around 1680-83 seems to be most likely to me – mostly on the basis that he wrote a couple of anthems scored for solo trio, continuo, and chorus around that time. It’s a very appealing piece with a marvellous rich opening trio. The…

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…