Charles Wood (1866-1926) was born in Armagh, Ireland. He was a treble chorister in the choir of St. Patrick's Cathedral (Church of Ireland). He received his early education at the Cathedral Choir School. In 1883 he entered the Royal College of Music, studying composition with C. V. Stanford & C. H. H. Parry. In 1889 he attained a teaching position at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, first as organ scholar and then as fellow in 1894, becoming the first Director of Music and Organist. After Stanford died, Wood assumed his mentor's vacant role as University of Cambridge Professor of Music in 1924. His pupils included Ralph Vaughan Williams at Cambridge and Herbert Howells at the Royal College of Music.
This is the seventh piece in the second set of the "Sixteen Preludes." They were published by Stainer & Bell in 1912, and really quite "rare" pieces. I say that since I've heard very few of these played.
This is undoubtedly the most "famous" of the entire group of preludes. The text and tune are found in short collection of nineteen Certayn Psalmes between mid-1547 and early 1549. The text is given as:
O Lord, because my harts desire hath wished long to see: My onely Lord and Saviour, thy Sonne before I die. (The original version is pictured below.
The work, marked "Adagio ma non troppo" and is a canon at the fifth between the two parts in the right hand. It's disposition has lead to an unique "way of playing this piece," which is described in the First Comment.
The piece is in the key of D-flat major, and the mood of the piece is dignified and stately, no doubt portraying the elderly Simeon, who gives thanks in the temple when he beholds and blesses the infant Jesus on what the Church calls the Feast of the Purification.
The "Nunc dimittis" is sung at every service of evensong & compline.
The score is attached below, as well as photos of Wood, Gonville and Caius Chapel, and Ravenscroft, and original pages from the Sternold & Hopkins Psalter.