Purcell: Musick’s Hand-maid (The Harp Consort) Astrée E 8564

There are some gifts that just keep on giving. Like a St Bernard puppy; awfully cute, with its huge head and spindly legs, but then when it is fully grown and devouring a tractor-trailer load of beef weekly, one begins muttering dark things about the giver.
So it is with some music recordings, like the wonderful performance of [insert the name of your favourite work here] that you listened to over and over again as a child. You are given an original copy (perhaps even the original copy, unearthed from some attic or basement), and you dust it off and place it on your turntable, lower the arm, and there it is; hideous noise that you don’t remember. So, off you go and spend the next two weeks assembling a maze of wires from your system to the computer, then sitting with earphones for hours on end, listening to the same thing over and over again, as you try to clean it up with Audacity, or its equivalent. By the time you’ve finished, you don’t really ever want to hear it again, and the result is not quite what you wanted anyway.
Someone recently gave me an example of  ‘Musick’s Hand-maid’ (by the Harp Consort and Andrew Lawrence-King) in absolutely mint condition, never played or even looked at.  I was delighted, until I played it, and only recognized half the pieces on it.  Were these previously unknown pieces, recently found in some new Purcell manuscript?  I opened the booklet.  Nope.  All selections from ‘The Second Part of Muſick’s Hand-maid’ and ‘A Choice Collection of Leſsons for the Harpſichord or Spinnet  Compoſed by yᵉ late Mʳ Henry Purcell’.  Obviously, many of them were transcriptions, as Lawrence-King hit upon the notion of substituting his beloved harp for the keyboard instrument, and I just didn’t recognize them in their new clothing.  Sadly, no Z numbers (from the thematic catalogue by Franklin B. Zimmerman) are given for any of the pieces, so I can’t even identify them that way.  What’s worse, some of the unconventional instrumentation didn’t come over very well, like the prelude played on a chamber organ; this may have sounded wonderful inside an eight-by-ten ‘closet’, when one was sitting on a turkey-work covered chair, fourteen inches away, but recorded inside of St Georgs-Kirche, it sounds like incidental music for a particularly depressing scene in Kurosawa’s ‘Hidden Throne of Blood Fortress’.  Microphone placement is very important in these situations.
So there we are.  The bloody thing is in my iTunes, and I play it now and again, and worry at it.  I should just delete it, of course, but it nags at me.  If anyone ever reads this (stuff on WordPress doesn’t turn up much in searches; try it, if you don’t believe me) and knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, which is what, take pity on a poor old soul and let me know, OK?  Update, 23 April: Thanks to M. ‘J.M.T.’, of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, who courteously directed my attention to their catalogue listing of this recording, where every single track is fully and correctly identified, I have satisfied my curiosity.  Although I utilize the BnF’s website (as well as their digital initiative, the wondrous Gallica) quite frequently, I must confess that it didn’t occur to me to look there.  I should have known.  The BnF is everything that a library should be, and our pathetic Library of Congress (and the sadly diminished British Library) does not come even close.  I will be listing the information I gleaned later, in a separate post, in case someone else is interested.

1 of 30 | A ſingle Song in Edipus.  Muſick for a while  Z583/2
2 of 30 | Air   ZT676 (from Z592/7)
3 of 30 | Air  [Which bloody air?  Delightful tune, infuriatingly familiar.]
4 of 30 | The Resurrection: Out of Mr. Cowley’s Pindaricks.   Z183
5 of 30 | Prelude Z663
6 of 30 | Almand Z663
7 of 30 | Corante Z663
8 of 30 | Sarabande Z663
9 of 30 | A New Ground (Here the deities approve) ZT682
10 of 30 | Round-O ZT684 (from Z570)
11 of 30 | Strike the Viol, touch the Lute, a ſingle Song Z323/4
12 of 30 | Prelude [?]
13 of 30 | Almand [?]
14 of 30 | Courante [?]
15 of 30 | A New Scotch Tune Z655
16 of 30 | Air [?]
17 of 30 | Gavott [?]
18 of 30 | A New Irish Tune Z646
19 of 30 | Ground in Gamut Z645
20 of 30 | An Evening Hymn. On a Ground   Z193
21 of 30 | Almand very slow Bell-barr Z668
22 of 30 | Air [?]
23 of 30 | Minuet Sefauchi’s Farewell Z656
24 of 30 | Ground [?]
25 of 30 | Cupid, the slyest rogue alive Z367
26 of 30 | Jigg [?]
27 of 30 | Hornpipe [?]
28 of 30 | Jigg [?]
29 of 30 | Here, let my life with as much silence slide Z544
30 of 30 | Thou knoweſt, Lord, the ſecrets of our hearts Z58/C

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