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Thea Musgrave

Publisher: Novello & Co

Four Portraits (1956)
commissioned by Geoffrey Walls
Text Writer
Sir John Davies
Novello & Co Ltd
Solo Voice(s) and up to 6 players
Year Composed
7 Minutes
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Programme Note
Thea Musgrave Four Portraits (1956)
Four Portraits for baritone, clarinet and piano was written in 1956. It is based on a series of poems by Sir John Davies (1569-1626) which are cynical portraits of important personages of the time.

I study to uphold the slippery state of man
Who dies when we have done the best and all we can.
From practice and from books I draw my learned skill
Not from the known receipt of ‘pothecaries’ bill.
The earth my faults doth hide, the world my cures doth see
What youth and time effects is oft ascribed to me.

The law my calling is;
My robe, my tongue, my pen,
Wealth and opinion gain
And make me judge of men.
The known dishonest cause
I never did defend
Nor spun our suits in length.
But wished and sought an end
Nor counsel did bewray,
Nor of both parties take;
Nor ever took I fee,
For which I never spake.

My calling is divine,
And I from God am sent.
I will no chop-church be,
Nor pay my patron rent,
Nor yield to sacrilege.
But like the kind true mother,
Rather would lose the child
Than part it with another.
Much wealth I will not seek,
Nor worldly masters serve,
So to grow rich and fat
While my poor flock doth starve.

Long have I lived in Court
Yet learned not all this while
To sell poor suitors smoke
Nor where to hate, to smile,
Superiors to adore
Inferiors to despise.
To fly from such as fall,
To follow such as rise,
To cloak a poor desire
Under rich array.
Nor to aspire by vice
Though ‘twere the quicker way.

Sir John Davies (1569 - 1626)

  • Ensemble
    The Mühlfeld Ensemble / English Serenata
    Stephen Varcoe, baritone
    Clarinet Classics:
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