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A Newly Discovered Purcell Song

Tuesday 6 October 2020 – 19:00
St John Smith Square, London
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This new discovery was featured on Front Row, BBC Radio 4 on 5 October. Hear editor Rebecca Herissone talk about the work and hear the song in full (beginning c.10 minutes 15 seconds into the programme):

Philip Hayes (1738–1797) was a pioneer collector of the manuscripts of Henry Purcell, and his music library is a landmark of early musicology. Much less well known, however, are the six large scorebooks containing his own transcriptions of Restoration music, four now held at Tatton Park in Cheshire and the other two – almost entirely overlooked until now – at the Royal College of Music, London. From the basis of Hayes’s own scholarship, itself remarkable for its time, and of a fascinating trail of textual evidence encompassing three centuries, Rebecca Herissone has identified the hitherto unknown devotional song Oh that my grief was throughly weigh’d as an authentic composition by Purcell, despite the lack of any surviving primary source. Taking selected verses from the King James version of the book of Job, chapters 3 and 6, the setting is mainly a duet for high tenor and tenor with continuo accompaniment, but has a three-part repeated refrain including bass voice. Oh that my grief was throughly weigh’d is stylistically entirely consonant with Purcell’s other works in this genre, and is a welcome addition to his small yet distinguished repertoire of devotional partsongs also including Plung’d in the confines of despairWhen on my sickbed I languish, and In guilty night.


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