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Henry Purcell: Winner and Still Champeen

The suicidal subject matter is far from uplifting and it is unlikely to become a World Cup theme tune any time soon.

Yet none of these things appear to have dented public affection for the lovelorn lament When I am Laid in Earth, by the English composer Henry Purcell, which has triumphed against the odds to to be named the nation’s favourite aria.

The 321-year-old composition was the surprise winner of a poll for Radio 3, beating far better known compositions by Mozart, Wagner and Puccini. The aria features at the end of the opera Dido and Aeneas, Purcell’s only fully sung stage work and one of the earliest English operas.

It is a tragic lament, sung by Dido, Queen of Carthage, who flings herself on a funeral pyre after being abandoned by the Trojan Prince Aeneas. “Remember me,” sings the heartbroken queen, to the lover who has left her. “But ah, forget my fate.” She then commits suicide in despair…

UD, a Purcell fanatic, ain’t surprised. She plays and sings it all the time. Stately, with Purcell’s genius for putting English words to flowing and expressive tune, the piece concludes with Remember me! — a command that, for UD, has all the power of this mememormee at the end of Finnegans Wake:

And it’s old and old it’s sad and old it’s sad and weary I go back to you, my cold father, my coldmad father, my cold mad feary father, and I rush, my only, into your arms. I see them rising! So. Avelaval. My leaves have drifted from me. All. But one clings still. I’ll bear it on me. To remind me of. Lff! So soft this morning, ours. Yes. Carry me along, taddy, like you done through the toy fair! If I seen him bearing down on me now under whitespread wings like he’d come from Arkangels, I sink I’d die down over his feet, humbly dumbly, only to washup. First. We pass through grass behush the bush to. Whish! A gull. Gulls. Far calls. Coming, far! End here. Us then. Finn, again! Take. Bussoftlhee, mememormee! Till thousendsthee. Lps. The keys to. Given! A way a lone a last a loved a long the

Margaret Soltan, June 20, 2010 12:50PM
Posted in: henry purcell

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