Come ye Sons of Arts

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Although 'Come ye Sons of Arts' is one of Purcell’s most popular works, the earliest surviving complete source is a manuscript score signed by one ‘Rob[er]t Pindar’, and dated 1765—some seventy years after Purcell’s death. This score has necessarily formed the basis for all modern editions of the ode, but musicians have long doubted its reliability. Their suspicions were confirmed in 2003 when a tracing of a fragment of Purcell’s autograph was discovered among a set of ‘FAC SIMILES OF CELEBRATED COMPOSERS’ in a nineteenth-century book called 'Concert Room and Orchestra Anecdotes', published in 1825 by one Thomas Busby. The few bars reproduced there indicate that Pindar added three additional parts to Purcell’s instrumental scoring in the introduction to the solo and chorus ‘Come ye Sons of Arts’ (movement 2).This tantalising discrepancy prompted Rebecca Herissone to investigate Pindar’s copying in more detail. Alongside 'Come ye Sons of Arts', Pindar copied three other Purcell odes in his manuscript—'Welcome to all the Pleasures', the Yorkshire Feast Song and 'Hail! Bright Cecilia'—all of which fortunately survive elsewhere in reliable seventeenth-century sources, including two composer autographs. A comparison between Pindar’s versions and Purcell’s originals revealed Pindar had changed the instrumentation in most ensemble movements, altered repeats and text, and had even replaced an entire movement. Given that he carried out these ‘improvements’ in all three odes, it is extremely unlikely that he left 'Come ye Sons of Arts' untouched.Pindar’s frequent mistakes demonstrate that he was no great musician, and fortunately his predictable habits and ‘cut-and-paste’ approach make it easy to identify many of his alterations. This new edition is the first to attempt a full-scale reconstruction of the ode that removes Pindar’s eighteenth-century alterations and seeks to return the music to a form much closer to what Purcell composed. The opening symphony now has an additional final section, which is how the piece appears in Purcell’s 'The Indian Queen' (although it is possible that Pindar inserted this movement as a replacement to a completely different symphony, now lost). There are also major alterations to the scoring of instrumental and choral movements: second trumpet and timpani parts are removed altogether and oboes play in fewer movements. Pindar also had a habit of changing the scoring in repeated phrases; consequently, the introduction to ‘Come ye sons of arts’ and the ritornello at the end of ‘Strike the viol’ are now simplified, being played respectively on a pair of oboes and for strings alone. There are also many smaller alterations to harmony, part-writing, text setting and occasionally the text itself: in the facsimile fragment from Purcell’s lost autograph the opening solo quite clearly begins ‘Come, ye sons of arts’, in the plural, not ‘Come, ye sons of art’ as in Pindar’s score, so the decision has been taken in the edition to follow the text as given in Purcell’s autograph. In all, the ode now sounds quite different from the version based on Pindar’s manuscript that has previously been heard in modern performances.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherStainer & Bell Ltd
EditionD 98
ISBN (Print)979-0220222818
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010


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