When David heard that Absalom was slain…

I heard this beautiful music on Radio 3 this morning. It stopped me in my tracks and couldn’t do anything until it was finished. It’s by someone who’s quite new to me called Thomas Tomkins, a Welsh composer who lived from 1572 to 1656. This piece is setting of a biblical text from the 2nd Book of Samuel (Chapter 18 Verse 13) when David learns of the death of his son Absalom. In the King James version this reads

And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!

5 Responses to “When David heard that Absalom was slain…”

  1. The story of David and Absalom was also referred to by William Faulkner in the title of his novel Absalom, Absalom!, once voted the best Southern novel of all time.

  2. John Peacock Says:

    Very nice. But for me a much more impressive take on the same text was provided by Schutz, with solo bass voice underpinned by a set of sackbuts. The rendition of this by Pro Cantione Antiqua is a must-hear, but this is also pretty good:

  3. John Peacock Says:

    Actually, the PCA version is available on youtube: 6m50s into the link below. It’s slower and (for me) more moving – alternative versions seem a bit rapid for the gravity of the sentiments.

  4. […] When David heard that Absalom was slain… (telescoper.wordpress.com) Thomas Tomkins, a Welsh composer who lived from 1572 to 1656. This piece is setting of a biblical text from the 2nd Book of Samuel (Chapter 18 Verse 13) when David learns of the death of his son Absalom. In the King James version this reads […]

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