O solitude, my sweetest choice!, Z406

composer
1684/5
author of text
translator of text

 
The text of O solitude was drawn by Purcell from three verses of Katherine Philips’s skilful translation of ‘La solitude’ by Antoine Girard de Saint-Amant (1594–1661). Philips, who died of smallpox in 1664, was one of the most popular poets of Purcell’s youth, and the theme of this poem (published in Philips’s Poems of 1667) had a personal appeal to her for, despite having literary friends in London, most of her life was lived in relative seclusion in Denbighshire.

Purcell’s setting may date from around 1684/5, and is based on twenty-eight repetitions of a ground bass – the same one on which he had based the delicious symphony to the anthem In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust. Over this hypnotic bass Purcell illustrates the visionary text with the most ravishing melody, covering the regularity of the bass with overlapping vocal phrases and wonderful harmonic variety. Word-painting abounds: ‘O solitude’ recurs throughout the song, set with a selection of desolately falling intervals, ‘restless’ meanders in its melisma, ‘today as fresh and green’ optimistically rises through the scale, the harmony of ‘their hard fate’ turns marvellously, ‘woes’ droop and ‘as only death can cure’ drops to the bottom of the voice. O solitude is one of Purcell’s masterpieces.

from notes by Robert King © 2003

Recordings

Purcell & Blow: Countertenor duets
CDH55447Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
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)
The James Bowman Collection
This album is not yet available for downloadKING3Super-budget price sampler — Archive Service

Details

Track 3 on CDH55447 [5'44] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
Track 23 on CDA66730 [5'32] Last few CD copies remaining
Track 23 on CDS44161/3 CD3 [5'32] 3CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 7 on KING3 [5'41] Super-budget price sampler — Archive Service

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