Purcell?: Oh that my grief

Cover of D109 Purcell Oh that my grief

Edited by Rebecca Herissone
viii + 16pp.
Stainer & Bell D109, £8.50

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In her extensive introduction to this 106-bar devotional song for three male voices, Rebecca Herissone makes a convincing case for re-assessing Philip Hayes’ role as a collector and copyist of Purcell’s music in general and for re-instating this to the catalogue of the composer’s canon in particular.

Given the amount of detail she gives, it is surprising that she decided to omit the figured bass symbols on the grounds that it was impossible to distinguish between Hayes’s 18th-century additions (as witnessed in his other transcriptions of Purcell sources that still exist) and what might have been in the original; I should have thought making that statement would have been enough explanation had she left them in rather than (rather shadily) using them “to inform choices in the editorial continuo part”.

She casts the piece as a “homosocial” duet for high and normal tenor voices with a bass joining in for a refrain (in which it really does very little that add text and rhythm to the continuo line). The angular melodies and piquant harmonies are typical of the composer’s style. It is a pity that the three-part section (which neatly fits on to two pages) could not have been laid out on a spread rather than have a page turn in the middle of it both times.

Brian Clark

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