If music be the food of love, Z 379 (Henry Purcell)

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Soprano solo

  • (Posted 2009-07-23)  CPDL #19840:  Network.png
Editor: William Long (submitted 2009-07-23).   Score information: Letter, 6 pages, 108 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes: The solo setting (with continuo) is from Orpheus Britannicus.


  • (Posted 2009-05-01)  CPDL #19365:  Network.png PDF, Midi & Overture
Editor: John Kilpatrick (submitted 2009-05-01).   Score information: A4, 2 pages, 31 kB   Copyright: Public Domain
Edition notes: "The SATB arrangement is of the solo version, but is not by Purcell." (see Discussion page.)
  • (Posted 2004-01-30)  CPDL #06607:        (Sibelius 3)
Editor: Philip Legge (submitted 2004-01-30).   Score information: A4, 3 pages, 36 kB   Copyright: Personal
Edition notes: The same edition is also included in the TUMS Busking Book under the preceding entry, Il est bel et bon by Passereau."The SATB arrangement is of the solo version, but is not by Purcell." (see Discussion page.)

General Information

Title: If music be the food of love
Composer: Henry Purcell
Lyricist: Henry Heveningham

Number of voices: 1v   Voicing: Soprano solo
. Also as a SATB Genre: SecularAriaPartsong

Language: English
Instruments: Basso continuo; or partly Piano, partly a cappella

First published: 1698 in Orpheus Britannicus, Book 1, p. 6
Description: "The second verse comes from the alternate setting (Z 379a) published in the Gentleman's Journal of June 1692." (see Discussion page.)

Original text and translations

English.png English text

If music be the food of love,
sing on till I am fill'd with joy;
for then my list'ning soul you move
with pleasures that can never cloy,
your eyes, your mien, your tongue declare
that you are music ev'rywhere.

Pleasures invade both eye and ear,
so fierce the transports are, they wound,
and all my senses feasted are,
tho' yet the treat is only sound.
Sure I must perish by our charms,
unless you save me in your arms.

German.png German translation

Wenn die Musik der Liebe Nahrung ist,
sing, bis ich mit Freude bin erfüllt.
So rührst du meine Seele, die da lauscht,
zu stets frisch bleibenden Genüssen.
Dein Auge, deine Mien’ und Zung’ verkünden,
dass du Musik bist ringsumher.

Welch Wonne dringt an Aug’ und Ohr,
gar schmerzhaft heftig folgt Entzücken,
all meine Sinne festlich schmausen,
auch wenn der Rausch nur Klang ist.
An deinen Reizen muss ich wohl vergehn:
Einzig Rettung wäre mir dein Arm.

The first line of Heveningham's poem quotes the opening seven words of Twelfth Night by Shakespeare, giving rise to the belief that Purcell's song is a setting of a Shakespearean text, when it is not. The play begins:

If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it, that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.