Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Let God arise

Despite the fact that Let God arise (Z23) is a very early work it’s by no means either a juvenile or an unoriginal piece of work. Far from it, the young Purcell scored it for two solo tenors and it’s a perfect example of his original and richly textured approach to word-setting. He composed it…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Close thine eyes and sleep secure

This is one of the tiny Purcelllian gems that see the light all too rarely.  ‘Close thine eyes and sleep secure’  is a devotional song intended for domestic as well as public performance. Its text is a biblical paraphrase by Francis Quarles and is one of twelve of Purcell’s devotional songs published in 1688 in…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): How have I stray’d

William Fuller was a royalist clergyman who had been deprived of his livelihood during the Commonwealth and who, following the Restoration was appointed to several Anglican church posts in Ireland he preferred England to Ireland and following a successful court intrigue was appointed Bishop of Lincoln. Purcell set four of his poems all of which…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): When on my sick bed I languish

This week’s entry in my series dealing with Purcell’s religious music deals with ‘When on my sick bed I languish‘ Z144, which is Purcell’s setting of a poem by Thomas Flatman (1637-1688) an English poet, barrister, and painter of miniatures of whose poetry was moderately popular during his lifetime and included pindaric odes, poems celebrating…

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…