Listening to Britten – Purcell: Man is for the woman made

The Two Lords’ Explanation – Gloriana by Jane Mackay – her visual response to Britten’s music, used with many thanks to the artist. Jane Mackay’s Sounding Art website can be found here

Man is for the woman made, Z605 – Purcell realization for high or medium voice and piano (pre 21 November 1945, Britten aged 32)

Dedication not known
Text Peter Anthony Motteux
Language English
Duration 1’10”

Audio clip with thanks to Hyperion
Realization, with Anthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor) and Graham Johnson (piano)

Background and Critical Reception

In his book Essential Britten, John Bridcut gives some fascinating statistics on the Purcell songs as performed by Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten in their recitals. Top of the list is There’s not a swain of the plain, with approximately 115 performances by the pair, but second is this little ditty with no fewer than 75 recorded performances.

The short song is an extract from Purcell’s incidental music to The mock marriage, published in 1695.


There would certainly have been a knowing wink in the performance of this short song when Britten and Pears were performing it, given the words!

All the more so because of the initially polite piano accompaniment, which suddenly becomes puffed-up towards the end, with extravagant runs in the right hand to complement the text ‘be she widow be she maid, be she wanton be she staid’.

This brisk, invigorating march in C is enjoyable enough, though I did find the vocal line not as rewarding as some of the Purcell that Britten chose to realize.

Recordings used

Anthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor), Graham Johnson (piano) (Hyperion)

Graham Johnson enjoys the flourishes of the piano part, while Anthony Rolfe Johnson’s voice is fulsome in tone.


There is an unidentified version of Peter Pears singing this song on Spotify, which can be accessed <a href=";.

Also written in 1945: Milhaud – Suite française, Op.254

Next up: Sweeter than roses

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