John Blow (1649 – 1708): Venus and Adonis

Technically John Blow’s Venus and Adonis is a masque1 and indeed he himself described it as such. I suspect that he called it a masque simply because masques were a known quantity and operas were not. Leaving aside questions of nomenclature you can make a good case that with Venus and Adonis  Blow took the…

Christopher Gibbons (1615 – 1676): O Bone Jesu

A Latin-texted motet is, as you might expect, quite unusual amongst Gibbons’ compositions1. It’s very beautifully and expressively written and with an very special sound-world. The soprano hovers more than an octave over the three lower voices the effect of which is heightened by sharpened interjections. I found it a very striking piece of music…

John Blow (1649-1708): Salvator mundi, salva nos

Many things changed drastically in England once the Puritan government fell and the monarchy under Charles II was restored. Among the things that changed was that Church music was suddenly allowable again. Among the things that didn’t change was the fact that Latin texts remained distinctly non grata in Anglican churches. This didn’t stop Purcell…

John Blow (1649-1708): Let thy hand be strengthened

James II and his Queen Mary of Modena were crowned in Westminster Abbey on 23 April 1685, St George’s Day. Blow’s four-part (SATB) setting of the coronation anthem Let thy hand be strengthened would have been sung by the scholars of Westminster School to greet the arrival of the Queen after the Vivats. It’s sung…

William Child (1606-1697): O praise the Lord

William Child is largely forgotten today and when musicologists do discuss his music they tend to dismiss it as unimaginative and utilitarian. I very much doubt though that that is what his contemporaries and his successors, who included Blow and Purcell thought. We may today be grateful for our rich inheritance of music from Blow,…

John Blow (1649 – 1708): I will hearken

The collapse of the Puritan regime and the restoration of the Stuart monarchy under Charles II in 1660 meant an immediate change in the style of government. Charles’ government immediate priority was restoring those institutions of state that the Puritans had destroyed and that included the Chapel Royal which had been a vital centre of…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): My heart is fixed, O God

This wonderful verse anthem is one of my favourites I find it’s cheerful expansiveness simply irresistible while its joyful text from Psalm 57 is a great tonic to the Anglican angst in which Purcell all too frequently indulges himself. The source is the ‘Royal Music’ manuscript which dates it to the three year period 1682-85…