Thomas Weelkes

Grant the King a long life | English Anthems and Instrumental Music

The Choir of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge
Directed by David Skinner

Thomas Weelkes was a notorious drunkard and blasphemer, in regular conflict with the authorities of Chichester Cathedral where he was organist, Informator Choristarum, and a singing-man from 1602 until his death in 1623. At least that is his modern reputation. But regardless of the man’s personal flaws, his music firmly stands as sublime.

He was the most notable composer of madrigals in his day, and one of the most prolific composers of church music. Featured here is a selection of his finest full and verse anthems as well as instrumental music for organ, viols, and solo voice, including a number of anthems in praise of King James I of England.

5* review - BBC Music Magazine
NOMINATED, Gramophone Award, Early Music


Track listing

1. Hosanna to the Son of David
2. Pavan: 'Mr Weelkes his Lacrimae'
3. What joy so true
4. All people clap your hands
5. Voluntary
6. Lord to thee I make my moan
7. When David heard
8. Gloria in excelsis Deo
9. Pavan: 'Mr Weelkes his Pavin'
10. Give ear, O Lord
11. Most mighty and all-knowing Lord
12. O how amiable
13. Voluntary
14. Alleluia. I heard a voice
15. O mortal man
16. Pavan
17 Give the king thy judgements
18. Fantasy 'for 2 Basses'
19. If King Manasses
20. O Lord, grant the King a long life

In the press

“the exquisite playing of Fretwork, especially in the three Pavans, is of such quality that it alone is well worth the price of the disc. And, given their own moment in the limelight in two of Weelkes's voluntaries, the two organists emerge as deeply sympathetic to this delightful music.”
- Gramophone Magazine

“For the organ-accompanied verse anthems the soloists have been drawn from the choir...while in anthems such as 'What joy so true' the women affect the usual choirboyish quality though without the dangerously fragile intonation that usually accompanies such a strategy; the result is, well, affecting...Fretwork's highly musical phrasing complemented by dusky timbres and sharply delineated textures return to delight both ear and brain”
- International Record Review

“There's both freshness and fire in these accounts, Skinner underscoring the music's dramatic and madrigalian qualities, and enhancing dynamic and textural contrasts to elating effect.”
- BBC Music Magazine, 5* review

“One would expect Fretwork to be totally at home with Weelkes' idiom and thus produce persuasive, sonorous, expressive and highly communicative performances. Indeed, they are; and they do. The Choir of Sidney Sussex is equally impressive. Soloists are drawn therefrom; and all articulate Weelkes' every word and nuance, adding clarity and distinction of diction to the qualities that make this a recommendable CD. Indeed, the performers respond with always appropriate joy, wit, enthusiasm, reserve, celebration, veneration at times, delight, and enthusiasm – all without ever losing spontaneity. They sing and play, one feels, as would have done those close to Weelkes and his audiences, congregations and companions in the first 20 or so years of the seventeenth century. Full and Verse Anthems make up the majority of tracks here; and the performers infuse them with a life and vibrancy that is most convincing. They somehow manage to convey a sense of the sublime.”
- Classical Net

From the booklet notes

“While more Canticle settings survive from Weelkes’ pen than any other composer of the period, all are incomplete or woefully defective (yet those that do survive intact are of the highest quality). This recording centres around Weelkes’ full and verse anthems, several of which are in honour of King James I (whose youthful portrait is on the cover of this CD) as well as music for viol consort and organ solo. His style, although akin to that of Gibbons or Tomkins (Obsidian CD702) is, one might argue, more tuneful and immediately appealing. Weelkes’ melodies and harmonic progressions are infectious, and certainly memorable. It is thought that most of his church music dates from his years at Chichester, and a good sample has come down to us: no fewer than sixteen full anthems and twenty-three verse anthems (though of these, unfortunately, only five survive intact). Weelkes drew largely from biblical texts and, in particular, the psalter: some metrical (Sternhold & Hopkins) and some composite. ‘Hosanna to the son of David’ stands out among his full anthems in that, with its close imitation and intense virile melodic entries, it follows closely his well-honed madrigalian practices (the same might be said for ‘All people clap your hands’, though to a lesser extent.) The distinct three-part structure found in ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo’ and ‘Alleluia. I heard a voice’ is more typical, while the poignant lament ‘When David heard’ is one of the most successful settings of this popular text.”

(c) David Skinner