Henry Purcell (1659-1695): How Happy the Lovers

Purcell Closterman Small This chorus is from Act IV the semi-opera King Arthur, or The British Worthy (1691) the libretto was by John Dryden. It’s a wonderfully sensual and rich piece of  music into which Purcell wove tutti, solos, male and female voices, and duets. It’s very French you can hear that Lully’s Passacaille d’Armide impressed Purcell. During Act IV siren try to tempt Arthur into a stream but fail. A group of nymphs and sylvans then appears and ‘sing and dance the following song, all with Branches in their Hands’. Enjoy :-).

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Henry Purcell (1659-1695): How Happy the Lovers

Performers: VOCES8 & Les Inventions

Text: How Happy The Lover

How happy the lover,
How easy his chain!
How sweet to discover
He sighs not in vain.

For love ev’ry creature
Is form’d by his nature.
No joys are above
The pleasures of love.

In vain are our graces,
In vain are your eyes.
In vain are our graces
If love you despise.
When age furrows faces,
‘Tis too late to be wise.

Then use the sweet blessing
While now in possessing.
No joys are above
The pleasures of love.

From ‘King Arthur’ Z.628 Text: John Dryden (1631-1700)

The chorus How Happy the Lover is setting a libretto by 
In Act IV, the sirens tempt Arthur into the
stream, but to no avail. Then a group of nymphs
and sylvans appear from behind the trees
and – according to original stage directions –
‘sing and dance the following song, all with
Branches in their Hands.’ Purcell weaves into
this wonderfully sensual passacaille an array
of diverse vocal settings: tutti, 3 female and 3
male voices, duets, etc. The influence of Lully
and his is unmistakeable

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