Purcell (The) Food of Love

Purcell performances from a fine ensemble that approach perfection

Author: 
Richard Lawrence
The Food of LoveThe Food of Love

PURCELL The Food of Love

  • If music be the food of love
  • Corinna is divinely fair
  • Tyrannic Love, Ah! how sweet it is to love (song)
  • What a sad fate is mine
  • Aureng-Zebe, ~, I see, she flies me
  • Caprice di ciacona
  • O Solitude! my sweetest choice
  • Oedipus, Music for a while (song)
  • (4) Grounds, C minor, T D221 (spurious, by ?Croft)
  • O! fair Cederia, hide those eyes
  • (The) Mock Marriage, Man is for woman made (song)
  • Not all my torments can your pity move
  • On the brow of Richmond Hill
  • Pious Celinda goes to prayers
  • (The History of) Dioclesian, or The Prophetess, When first I saw (song: tenor)
  • Preludes from 'The Division Viol', D
  • Timon of Athens, The cares of lovers
  • (The) Fatal hour comes on apace
  • I lov'd fair Celia
  • When her languishing eyes said 'love'
  • Suite, Prélude
  • (A) Morning Hymn, 'Thou wakeful shepherd'
  • Preludes from 'The Division Viol', E
  • (The) Earth trembled
  • (An) Evening Hymn on a Ground, 'Now that the sun hath veil'd his light'
  • If music be the food of love

Paul Agnew is perhaps most readily associated with the French Baroque, but he is equally at home in English music. Here he presents a marvellous anthology of songs by Purcell. They are divided into groups which are separated by short instrumental pieces by other composers, giving well deserved solo spots to Anne-Marie Lasla and Elizabeth Kenny.

The programme – and it is a programme, which can be enjoyed at a sitting – begins with one version of “If music be the food of love” and ends with another: not Shakespeare, but Colonel Henry Heveningham. As you might expect, several songs employ a favourite device of Purcell’s, the ground bass. “O solitude”, exquisitely shaded though it is, comes across as rather too austere with nothing between the bass viol and the voice; but in the introduction to “Music for a while”, the viol starts and is joined in turn by theorbo and harpsichord, to excellent effect.

If the tone is predominantly sombre, there’s relief in “Man is for the woman made”, Agnew’s cheerful delivery perfectly complemented by a strumming guitar. The Evening Hymn – another ground – ends with a string of “Hallelujahs” that Agnew sings with an appropriate inwardness; it’s aptly preceded by the lesser-known and very different Morning Hymn. A pity that the original French of “O solitude” isn’t printed; and one eyebrow twitched at the booklet’s suggestion that Purcell was practically an honorary Frenchman – “The fatal hour”, for instance, is indebted to those “fam’d Italian Masters” – but it’s the performances that count: magnificent.

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