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If music be the food of love, Z379c

composer
Deliciae Musicae II, July 1695
author of text

 
Purcell’s third version of Colonel Henry Heveningham’s ‘If music be the food of love’ was printed in July 1695 in the second book of Deliciae Musicae. The first two versions (one a reworking of the other) had been glorious, strophic settings; the third setting was an ecstatic evocation of music as an incitement to love – as fine a song as had been the verses by Shakespeare in Twelfth Night which had been Heveningham’s inspiration. The first melisma (on ‘food’), accompanied by a marvellous, falling bass line, is a catalyst which inspires a series of increasingly florid repetitions of ‘Sing on’ and a peacock-like roulade on ‘joy’. ‘For then my list’ning soul you move’ returns to more personal sentiments, with a delicious melisma on ‘pleasures’ before the list of qualities (‘Your eyes, your mien [bearing], your tongue’) that declare ‘That you are music ev’rywhere’ lead to two melismas on the word ‘music’.

In the first two versions Purcell had set the second stanza to the same music as the first; here he contrasts the semi-recitative of the opening with a lilting, triple-time aria which describes the ‘pleasures’ that ‘invade both eye and ear’, ‘So fierce’ that they ‘wound’ (with the usual sexual connotation) the senses. For the last pair of lines Purcell tellingly returns to the style of the opening, with a final, haunting melisma that would challenge even the hardest heart not to ‘save me in your arms’.

from notes by Robert King © 2003

Recordings

Purcell: Music for a while & other songs
CDA66070Archive Service
Purcell: Secular solo songs, Vol. 3
CDA66730Last few CD copies remainingDownload currently discounted
Purcell: The complete secular solo songs
CDS44161/33CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

Details

Track 9 on CDA66070 [3'36] Archive Service
Track 10 on CDA66730 [3'45] Last few CD copies remaining
Track 10 on CDS44161/3 CD3 [3'45] 3CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

Track-specific metadata for CDA66070 track 9

Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-87-07009
Duration
3'36
Recording date
13 October 1981
Recording venue
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Tony Faulkner
Hyperion usage
  1. Purcell: Music for a while & other songs (CDA66070)
    Disc 1 Track 9
    Release date: September 1987
    Archive Service
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