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Rick Jones Rick Jones | 14:54 UK time, Monday, 2 March 2009

henry purcell - royal academy of music_sm.jpgWell spotted, Thurifer. That'll teach me to be careful for nothing.

Thurifer, readers, has questioned my description as unaccompanied the Purcell anthems listed in the last blog which clearly have at least a continuo accompaniment. It is the sort of howler to which I have been prone all my life. Think of me as Wikipedia. It is said that any false entries there are corrected by readers within minutes. Thurifer, you were quick off the mark even if it was a sitter. You have my gratitude, standing there this St David's Day morning, swinging your thurible.

Here, for my penance, are fuller details:

Jehova quam multi sunt hostes mei is a five-part verse setting of Psalm 3 with a bottom F for the bass soloist when he sings about his enemies' broken teeth. Given the Latin text, it was probably composed for Charles II 's Roman Catholic wife Catherine of Braganza to be sung in her private chapel.

Miserere Mei is a four-voice canon written in 1687 during the reign of the Catholic James II.

Remember not Lord our Offences is a five-part full anthem composed around 1680. The pleading words are taken from the Order for the Visitation of the Sick in the Book of Common Prayer.

Beati Omnes qui timent Dominum is a setting of Psalm 128 for four-part chorus and soprano and bass soloists. Like Jehova quam multi, it was probably written for private performance before Charles II's queen by minimal forces.

Let mine Eyes run down with Tears is a verse anthem for choir plus treble, alto, tenor and bass soloists. The words are taken from Jeremiah 14.

O dive custos is one of two Elegies written on the Death of Queen Mary. It is a duet for sopranos with words by Henry Parker with long wailing melismas and a fabulous chromatic descent on the final 'moriente' (dying).

The Funeral Sentences (first set Z27) date from the late 1670s. They are in verse and chorus form and comprise three parts: 'Man that is born of woman', 'In the midst of life', and 'Thou knowest Lord the secrets of our hearts'. The words are taken from the Burial Service in the Book of Common Prayer. A more famous setting of the last part was composed by Purcell as part of the Funeral Music for Queen Mary.

On a different note, I enjoyed an audience recently with the Principal of the Royal Academy of Music (RAM), Jonathan Freeman Attwood, a descendant, as it happens of the composer Thomas Attwood (1765-1838). We discussed the Academy's current project to perform all the church cantatas of J S Bach at the rate of one concert a month, each programme to contain two or three cantatas depending on length. It should take them about eight years and is certain to become an unmissable feature of the capital's cultural and spiritual life. Freeman-Attwood's oak-panelled study at the RAM contains a number of priceless items including Mozart's coffee table and above it a miniature portrait of Henry Purcell which I enclose for your enjoyment.

The RAM have kindly supplied the following information with the portrait: it's said to be by Sylvester Harding. Head and shoulders, turned left, wearing the costume of a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal. Watercolour with oil paint, white chalk and bodycolour, c.1794, in an oval. In a late 18th-century water-gilt frame.

After a portrait formerly in the collection at Dulwich, which went missing in the same year. It was engraved by William Gardiner, and published on 1 November 1794 after a drawing by Harding and was entitled 'Henry Purcell, Musician and Actor', supposedly for the 'Biographical Mirrour', It does not, however, appear in that publication, whose date of publication, unlike that of the engraving, was 1795. Included in the first volume, from Dulwich, were portraits of Edward Alleyn and Michael Drayton.


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