Three Songs with Hautboys

from Orpheus Britannicus

Henry Purcell (1659-1695)

voice, two oboes and continuo

Ref. no Pur 07 (in 'cantatas')           sample page      cover page      To order:     

  • Seek not to know what must not be reveal'd. (Z.630)
  • Hence with your trifling Deity. (Z.632)
  • Wond'rous Machine. (Z.328)

Seek not to know what must not be reveal'd (Z.630) is the magician Ismeron’s song from the Indian Queen. It follows a petition from the love-lorn Zempoalla to know what the future holds for her. Ismeron is obviously effective as a magician, and knows that hers was to be a tragic end; Peter Holman suggests that through him the God of Dreams is trying to give a diplomatic answer rather than tell her the bad news. The voice part, although written in the G2 clef, and intended for a tenor, is manageable by a baritone. Hence with your trifling Deity (Z.632) comes from the Masque of Cupid and Bacchus in Timon of Athens, Thomas Shadwell’s play, which was revived in 1694. It obviously belongs to one of the Bacchus party, and tellingly disparages the effects of love. We are not in the presence of great music here, but it has strength and energy, and is fun to sing and play. Wond'rous Machine (Z.328) which extols the organ, supposedly invented by St Cecilia, comes from one of Purcell’s finest works; the Ode for St Cecilias Day 1692. It is a wonderful example of a composition on a ground bass, a form used many times to such memorable effect by Purcell.