Posts Tagged ‘ Purcell ’

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Hear me, O Lord, the great support

October 11, 2013

Purcell Closterman Small During the 1680s Purcell set no less than nine of the psalms  paraphrases written by John Patrick to music. Hear me, O Lord, the great support (Z133) is based upon Psalm 4's nine verses. Its opening is set for all three voices but  Purcell creates a rich four-part text by having the bass digress from the continuo line. The  rich textured smoothness of the opening is in stark contrast to the defiance of the question posed by each of the singers  in turn at 'How long will ye pursue vain hopes?'  The middle voice's solo section that follows 'Know that the Lord does righteous men…' is interrupted by bass who commands us not to sin and the higher tenor who admonishes us to fear God. I've always enjoyed the next two lines:

Join a pure heart with trust in God
As the best sacrifice.

but it's the optimism of the tenor solo at 'Thy love more cheers my heart…' that makes this piece special for me. Purcell ends the piece with great serenity taking us down the musical scale at  'Down will I lie in peace, and sleep' to conclude that:

No fears disturb me, whilst I know
In God my safety lies.

It's sung below by the tenors Charles Daniels and Paul Agnew with the bass being sung by Michael George. Enjoy :-).


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Henry Purcell (1659-1695): O consider my adversity Z32

October 4, 2013

Purcell stamp UK 150x150 Purcell seems to have composed the verse anthem 'O consider my adversity (Z32)' relatively late in his career. It takes its text from eight verses of Psalm 119 setting them mostly for solo trio. It's a surprisingly large-scale work that Purcell starts by having each voice sing the opening phrase over a descending continuo line and using a dropping interval at 'consider' to create an appropriately imploring mood. The trio's voices move closer together at 'For I do not forget thy law' which creates a bell-like set of suspensions between the two tenors. This mood is changed by the bass' calling upon God to 'Avenge thou my cause' which call rises through the voices and leads to a triple-time section in which the psalmist calls on God to 'quicken me according to thy word'. Health, the second tenor informs us, 'is far from the ungodly' (if you listen closely while pondering this you can hear how Purceell uses elements of the opening continuo to underly this part of the anthem) the mood here is pitying rather than angry and is followed by a far more lively trio starting at 'Great is thy mercy, O Lord' the trio call up God to quicken them both homphonically and in in imitation before the choir interject asserting that God's mercy is great and repeating the plea that God inspire and animate them.

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Henry Purcell (1659-1695): My heart is inditing of a good matter

September 27, 2013

Mary of  Modena 320x320Purcell's  'My heart is inditing of a good matter' was specially composed for the coronation of King James II on April 23rd 1685 and was 'performed by the whole consort of voices and instruments' present in the Abbey once Mary of  Modena had been crowned. As you might expect for such an occasion it's a very large-scale composition that uses four-part strings, eight-part choir and eight soloists. I like the opening Symphony with its writing for high-pitched strings and bass violins and I like how the triple section dances along as it leads us to the first chorus section. Purcell introduces this slowly the voices come in gradually building to the full eight parts. He uses antiphonal effects between the upper and lower voices at 'I speak of the things'  to build up chains of suspensions before ending the section with a brief ritornello. The next section ('At his right hand …') has the pairs of voices performing dance-like dotted figurations at 'all glorious …' before changing to rich eight-part harmonies to evoke the magnificence of the queen's apparel 'Her clothing is of wrought gold'.

Part 2: She shall be brought unto the king

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Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Full of wrath, his threatening breath

September 20, 2013

Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667) The Royalist clergyman Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667)  served as a chaplain to Charles I and was captured and imprisoned during the Civil War. After he was released from prison he retired to Wales where he wrote poetry, books of sermons, a prayer manual and an argument for toleration. The Puritan state found all of this uncongenial and imprisoned him no less than three times. Charles II rewarded his loyalty by making him Bishop of Down and Connor. His text recounting the conversion of St Paul on the road to Damascus is quite dramatic. Purcell's treatment of Fuller's vivid language and more than somewhat exaggerated sentiments is to add his own sometimes quite extraordinary musical  twists and turns to depict his subject matter.

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Henry Purcell (1659-1695) Now that the sun hath veiled his light ‘An Evening Hymn’ – YouTube

September 13, 2013

Purcell Closterman Small Purcell's setting of Bishop William Fuller's 'Evening Hymn' is utterly different to the type of music that he normally wrote for the church. This isn't a gloriously impressive anthem written to impress the congregation in the Chapel Royal. Instead it's a quiet, almost private, meditation, sung by a solo treble. Purcell based it on a five-bar ground and adjusted the vocal entries to disguise the repetitions in the bass so the treble had to be a very skilled singer. The hymn ends with a 'Halleluia' that is very different indeed from how Purcell normally set the word.


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