Returning to the throne of England after long years of exile during Cromwell’s republic – which he spent at the French court, among other places – Charles II decided to restore the musical institutions to their former glory, drawing heavily on what he had seen and heard in his years outside his kingdom.
If the great hours of Elizabethan music remain in place, he innovates and arouses an extraordinary creativity with a model that will have definitively marked him: that of the Royal Chapel of Louis XIV, with its clever mixture of politics and religion. Thus, the great motets created by Dumont and Robert for the Sun King are answered by the splendid pages of Cooke, Humphrey & and John Blow. All these English composers know the French musical art perfectly.
Henry Cooke is the first inventor of a genre that mirrors the French Grand motet: the symphony anthem, taking from Du Mont the form and the discourse, while spicing it up with dissonances characteristic of the English style.
His pupil, Pelham Humphrey, who died at the age of 27 (like many great musicians), also took the time to study in Paris, with Lully himself, before passing on his art to the young Henry Purcell. Thus, at the age of 17, he walked the pavements of the Louvre and the royal residences of the French court, making his mark with his insolent talent and his colorful personality. His sudden death did not prevent him from having a profound impact on future generations of musicians, beginning with John Blow who composed more than 100 symphony anthems.
The dialogue between the small choir and the large choir, the sublime instrumental simphonies with their shimmering colors, the majesty of the discourse: between these two French and English repertoires, everything seems to respond to each other and converse with mutual admiration.
And yet each one will constitute for the future a model of national music that will last for decades!
Well after Normandy and Aquitaine, and notwithstanding contemporary politics, it would seem that we have a lot of territory in common with our neighbors across the Channel…
Henry du Mont Confitebimur
Pelham Humphrey O Lord my God
John Blow O Sing unto the Lord
Pierre Robert Nolite me considerare
Pelham Humphrey I will always give thanks (Club Anthems)
Pelham Humphrey Lord I have sinned
John Blow I will Hearken
Henry Purcell My heart is inditing