Little is known about the life of the English composer Thomas Weelkes: appointed organist of Winchester College in 1598, he moved to Chichester Cathedral in 1601/2, but was later dismissed for being drunk at the organ and using foul language during divine service. A consummate master of the art of word-painting, Weelkes was renowned as a madrigalist, whose second volume (published in 1600) is one of the most important collections in the English madrigal tradition.
Hosanna to the Son of David is a famous example of the English 'full' anthem – as opposed to the 'verse' anthem, which utilizes fewer forces. It opens with a majestic six-voice proclamation, and moves seamlessly between chordal outbursts and imitative passages, whose subjects can be either stepwise ("to the Son of David"), or angular ("that cometh in the name of the Lord.") Dramatic to the core, the work’s power comes from its rich six-voice texture (unusually, there are two bass parts – in addition to the two soprano lines – which create a thick, sonorous lower register), and the several striking silences in the music. The text is a composite paraphrase of verses from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, detailing Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, which ends in the unusual hybrid exclamation, "Hosanna in excelsis Deo."