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Polly is in a dilemma: she has just married her highwayman, and now she knows she has to send him away because her parents want her to hand him over for the reward money. She has just let him out of his hiding place (in her bedroom!) There are so many mood swings in this piece, which account for the changes of speed, from urgent to playful to very smoochy - MacHeath's last word should be smothered somewhere in Polly's clothing.
As always, one of the bassoons my be substituted by a cello.
The original of this tune is a broadside ballad named "Pretty Parrot, Say" and one source attributes it to a Mr John Freeman.
Reviews of The Beggar's Opera: 12. Pretty Polly, Say
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