When my Aemelia smiles, Z434

first printed in 1699
author of text

When my Aemelia smiles was first printed in late 1699 by Henry Playford in his ‘Monthly collection of new teaching songs Mercurius musicus’. There it was headed ‘Song set by the late Mr H. Purcell; never before publish’d’. A year later it was published by Thomas Cross as ‘A Song set by the late Mr Henry Purcell’ and in 1704 it was included in the second edition of Orpheus Britannicus. From the style of writing it is probable that Purcell wrote the song during the 1690s. All three sources title the lady ‘Acmelia’, which is presumably a misprint for ‘Aemelia’. Purcell’s setting is marvellously tuneful, providing important words such as ‘smile’, ‘smooth’ and ‘slide’ with delightful melismas. Contemporary audiences could hardly fail to notice the rash of unsubtle doubles entendres.

from notes by Robert King © 2003


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