Listening to Britten – Purcell: Dulcibella, Whene’er I Sue For A Kiss

A Tragic Story from Friday Afternoons, Op.7 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

Dulcibella, Whene’er I Sue For A Kiss, Z485 – Purcell realization for soprano or tenor, bass and piano (pre 26 June 1971, Britten aged 57)

Dedication not known
Text Anthony Henly
Language English
Duration 2′

Audio clip

Britten’s realization, performed by Ian Bostridge (tenor), Richard Jackson (baritone) and Graham Johnson (piano). With thanks to Hyperion

Background and Critical Reception

Britten continued to find songs by Purcell that were suitable for arrangement, in this case an independent duet for tenor and baritone that Purcell author Martin Adams describes as having ‘dramatic potential’.

The realization was not published until 1994, as part of A Miscellany of Songs. Very little appears to be known about the author.


Purcell’s duetting voices need little in the way of accompaniment, and the piano part probes and punctuates at the correct points, although Britten cannot resist adding a bright flourish or two to the right hand.

There is a lilting feel to the triple time song, and the tenor and baritone are relatively far apart while they sing, but come together for a subtle but rather lovely finish in the major key.

Recordings used

Ian Bostridge (tenor), Richard Jackson (baritone), Graham Johnson (piano) (Hyperion)

Bostridge and Jackson sing very well, especially considering the distance apart they often are, while Graham Johnson supplies an attentive and subtly pointed piano part.


Unfortunately neither the original nor Britten’s realization can be found on Spotify.

Also written in 1971: Morton Feldman – Rothko Chapel

Next up: When Myra sings

This entry was posted in Listening to Britten, Purcell realizations, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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