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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA66494
Recording details: March 1991
St Paul's Church, New Southgate, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Ben Turner
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: April 1992
Total duration: 21 minutes 31 seconds

'The richness of Purcell's musical invention sweep all before it, and these records demand to be heard above all for "the greatest Genius we ever had"' (The Sunday Times)

'A revelation and a delight. Thoroughly recommended' (Classic CD)

Love's goddess sure was blind, Z331
composer
30 April 1692; Ode for the Birthday of Queen Mary
author of text

Symphony  [3'41]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Purcell’s fourth birthday Ode for the Queen, Love’s goddess sure was blind, was the most intimate of the six, scored for just strings and a pair of recorders. The two-section Symphony is one of Purcell’s finest, especially richly scored. The noble, yet wistful, first part is dominated by a six-note falling scale and a ravishing melody (which comes only once in the violins, but three times in the viola), all wrapped in glorious harmony. The triple-time second section at first glance appears lighter in character, but (as with so much of Purcell’s music, which needs to be played to discover its true riches) in practice still has an underlying current of melancholy, heightened at the end as the opening mood returns. Charles Sedley’s opening words are given to the countertenor soloist, leading into an elegant, extended string ritornello. The off-beat accompaniment to the bass solo ‘Those eyes, that form, that lofty mien’ gives the music an added urgency, and a contrast to the gently undulating duet that follows, ‘Sweetness of Nature’. Here Purcell pairs alto and high tenor with the pastoral sound of two recorders (the tessitura of the recorder writing necessitates the use of the larger voice flute). The soprano soloist begins the charming minuet ‘Long may she reign’, which is repeated by the full ensemble.

The music historian Sir John Hawkins tells a story concerning the next movement ‘May her blest example chase’ which, whether true or not, gives an idea of the problems that working for royalty sometimes brought. Commanding musical entertainment one day, the Queen sent for the soprano Mrs Hunt, the famous bass John Gostling and Purcell. They performed several of Purcell’s songs, but the Queen was clearly not satisfied with such sophisticated music, eventually requesting that Mrs Hunt sing the Scots ballad ‘Cold and Raw’. Mrs Hunt complied, and accompanied herself on the lute. Purcell meantime sat at the harpsichord ‘unemployed and not a little nettled at the Queen’s preference for a vulgar ballad to his music’. When he came to write Love’s goddess sure Purcell must have remembered the Queen’s request, and used the ballad tune as the bass line to ‘May her blest example chase’. Harmonically it is not a particularly good line, but Purcell managed, with a struggle, to force a melody over it: the rustic string ritornello works rather well. No such struggle accompanied the duet that follows, ‘Many such days’ which, set over a two-bar ground bass, is a compositional tour de force. The voices enter across the ground, rather than at the start of a repeat, and Purcell brilliantly manages contrasts and modulations within the movement without having to interrupt the bass’s inexorable progress. Only at the concluding string ritornello does he allow the ground to wander into the other string parts, switching it rapidly through all the lines. The chorus ‘May she to Heaven late return’ too is another example of Purcell’s mastery of counterpoint, with subject and counter-subject treated with great imagination. The quartet that follows, ‘As much as we below’, is full of the delicious discords that make Purcell’s pathos-laden moments so telling, especially with the descending chromaticism of the word ‘mourn’ and the Ode ends reflectively.

from notes by Robert King © 2010

Other albums featuring this work
'Purcell: The Complete Odes & Welcome Songs' (CDS44031/8)
Purcell: The Complete Odes & Welcome Songs
MP3 £35.00FLAC £35.00ALAC £35.00Buy by post £38.50 CDS44031/8  8CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
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