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On the brow of Richmond Hill, Z405
The Banquet of Musick VI, 1692
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'Purcell: Secular solo songs, Vol. 1' (CDA66710)
Purcell: Secular solo songs, Vol. 1
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'Purcell: The complete secular solo songs' (CDS44161/3)
Purcell: The complete secular solo songs
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'The James Bowman Collection' (KING3)
The James Bowman Collection
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Track 17 on CDA66710 [1'34] Archive Service; also available on CDS44161/3
Track 17 on CDS44161/3 CD1 [1'34] 3CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 19 on KING3 [1'34] Super-budget price sampler Archive Service

On the brow of Richmond Hill, Z405
‘On the brow of Richmond Hill’ was Tom D’Urfey’s attractive Ode to Cynthia, walking on Richmond Hill, published in Purcell’s setting in the sixth and last book of The Banquet of Musick (1692). D’Urfey, said to have been a clerk’s apprentice in early life, became one of the most popular playwrights of the later seventeenth century, also writing poetry, odes and lyrics of all kinds. He was best in farcical comedies but in later works also explored romantic subjects. His Ode to Cynthia proved hugely popular and Purcell’s setting of it was frequently reprinted right up to 1721.

For those unfamiliar with the geography of greater London, Richmond Hill sits some ten miles to the southwest of the city. In the seventeenth century it would have taken half a day on horseback to get there, but the view from the top of the hill, looking down into the lush green valley of the river Thames, around which were sited a variety of fine stately homes belonging to the good and the great, was one of the finest vistas of the capital and its environs. D’Urfey poetically describes the scene, and Purcell’s setting is affectionately melodic (including a circular melisma to illustrate both ‘round’ and ‘crown’d’). ‘Lovely Cynthia’ passes by and, as the melody reaches one note higher than previously, catches the poet’s eye ‘With brighter glories’. The view pales into insignificance, for ‘all [ravishingly set by Purcell] are poor’ when compared to Cynthia.

from notes by Robert King 2003

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