Urge me no more, Z426

composer
December 1682
author of text

 
Urge me no more appears in three sources: a late seventeenth-century manuscript now in Chichester Cathedral Library, another in Christ Church, Oxford, and, probably the earliest of the three, one now held in the British Museum where the manuscript is dated December 1682. The text, however, uses language and metre of eighty years earlier and appears to come from a play which may have been written around 1600; perhaps one of the late choirboy plays. Purcell’s setting is extremely fine and is especially full of graphic word-painting, similar in style and content to some of the best devotional songs in the church music.

We are never told why the poet is so miserable, but the colourful descriptions of his low state and references to music and musical instruments inspired the composer. In the opening phrase the voice leaps an octave and a half from ‘Urge me no more’ to ‘this airy mirth’; we are told that now is not the moment for music, which belongs to more cheerful times The ‘sprightly twang’ of the lute is prefaced by four continuo chords, and the ‘untun’d fortunes’ are prefaced by a tortured harmonic shift. Music, we learn, as an artificial contrivance (‘strains that are constrained’), exacerbates the natural, unconstrained experience of genuine grief. The poet’s emotions rise at the outburst ‘My grief’s too great for smiling eyes’, and there follows an extraordinary list, much in the style of Abraham Cowley, of the noises that would make suitable ‘music for these times’. Purcell illustrates each grim sound: the ‘dismal croaks’ of ravens, wolves howling, owls screeching and, poignantly scored, the sad tolling of a funeral bell. If we knew the source of the text, the significance of the ‘nine sad knolls’ – not a usual number – might become clearer. The key centre moves still further away from the starting point into the final ‘horrid outcries of revenged crimes’; a combination of all these sounds, ‘Join’d in a medley, is music for these times’. Purcell’s harmonization of ‘music’ could hardly be more tortured. A sad minuet ‘These are no times to touch the merry strings Of Orpheus’ concludes the song, though not without a pun on the word ‘relish’, which in music also meant a grace note or appoggiatura.

from notes by Robert King © 2003

Recordings

Purcell: Secular solo songs, Vol. 1
CDA66710Archive Service; also available on CDS44161/3
Purcell: The complete secular solo songs
CDS44161/33CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

Details

Track 8 on CDA66710 [3'11] Archive Service; also available on CDS44161/3
Track 8 on CDS44161/3 CD1 [3'11] 3CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

Track-specific metadata for CDS44161/3 disc 1 track 8

Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-94-71008
Duration
3'11
Recording date
29 March 1994
Recording venue
Orford Church, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Ben Turner
Recording engineer
Philip Hobbs
Hyperion usage
  1. Purcell: Secular solo songs, Vol. 1 (CDA66710)
    Disc 1 Track 8
    Release date: March 1994
    Deletion date: February 2010
    Archive Service; also available on CDS44161/3
  2. Purcell: The complete secular solo songs (CDS44161/3)
    Disc 1 Track 8
    Release date: November 2003
    3CDs Boxed set (at a special price)