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Henry Purcell by John Closterman

Henry Purcell (pronounced /ˈpɜː(r)səl/;[1] 10 September 1659 (?)[2] – 21 November 1695), was an English organist and Baroque composer of secular and sacred music. Although Purcell incorporated Italian and French stylistic elements into his compositions, his legacy was a uniquely English form of Baroque music.

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Biography

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Early life and career

Purcell was born in St Ann's Lane, Old Pye Street, Westminster. Henry Purcell Senior[3] was a gentleman of the Chapel Royal, and sang at the coronation of King Charles II of England.[4] His older brother Thomas Purcell (d. 1682) was also a musician. Henry the elder had three sons, Edward, Henry and Daniel. Daniel Purcell (d. 1717), the youngest of the brothers, was also a prolific composer who wrote the music for much of the final act of The Indian Queen after Henry Purcell's death. Henry Purcell's family lived just a few hundred yards west of Westminster Abbey in year 1659 and onward.[5]

After his father's death in 1664, Purcell was placed under the guardianship of his uncle, who showed him great affection and kindness.[6] Thomas was himself a gentleman of His Majesty's chapel, and arranged for Henry to be admitted as a chorister. Henry studied first under Captain Henry Cooke (d. 1672)[7], Master of the Children, and afterwards under Pelham Humfrey (d. 1674), Cooke's successor.[8] Henry was a chorister in the Chapel Royal until his voice broke in 1673, at which time he became assistant to John Hingeston, the musical instrument keeper for the King.[5]

Purcell is said to have been composing at nine years old, but the earliest work that can be certainly identified as his is an ode for the King's birthday, written in 1670.[9] (The dates for his compositions are often uncertain, despite considerable research.) It is assumed that the three/part song, Sweet tyranness, I now resign, was written by him as a child.[6] After Humfrey's death, Purcell continued his studies under Dr. John Blow. He attended Westminster School, and in 1676 he was appointed copyist at Westminster Abbey.[4] Henry Purcell became the assistant to Hingston, keeper of the royal instruments in 1677.[10] Henry Purcell's earliest anthem "Lord, who can tell" was composed in 1678. It is a psalm that is prescribed for Christmas Day and also to regularly be read at Morning Prayer on the fourth day of each month.[11]

In 1679, he wrote some songs for John Playford's Choice Ayres, Songs and Dialogues, and also an anthem, the name of which is not known, for the Chapel Royal. From a letter written by Thomas Purcell, and still extant, we learn that this anthem was composed for the exceptionally fine voice of the Rev. John Gostling, then at Canterbury, but afterwards a gentleman of His Majesty's chapel. Purcell wrote several anthems at different times for this extraordinary voice, a basso profondo, which is known to have had a range of at least two full octaves, from D below the bass staff to the D above it. The dates of very few of these sacred compositions are known; perhaps the most notable example is the anthem "They that go down to the sea in ships". In thankfulness for a providential escape of the King from shipwreck, Gostling, who had been of the royal party, put together some verses from the Psalms in the form of an anthem and requested Purcell to set them to music. The work is a very difficult one, opening with a passage which traverses the full extent of Gostling's range, beginning on the upper D and descending two octaves to the lower.

Another portrait of Henry Purcell
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Later career and death

In 1679, Blow, who had been appointed organist of Westminster Abbey in 1669, resigned his office in favour of his pupil.[12] Purcell now devoted himself almost entirely to the composition of sacred music, and for six years severed his connection with the theatre. However, during the early part of the year, probably before taking up his new office, he had produced two important works for the stage, the music for Nathaniel Lee's Theodosius, and Thomas d'Urfey's Virtuous Wife.[12] Between 1680 and 1688 Purcell wrote music for seven plays.[13] The composition of his chamber opera Dido and Aeneas, which forms a very important landmark in the history of English dramatic music, has been attributed to this period, and its earliest production may well have predated the documented one of 1689.[12] It was written to a libretto furnished by Nahum Tate, and performed in 1689 in cooperation with Josias Priest, a dancing master and the choreographer for the Dorset Garden Theatre. Priest's wife kept a boarding school for young gentlewomen, first in Leicester Fields and afterwards at Chelsea, where the opera was performed.[14] It is occasionally considered the first genuine English opera, though that title is usually given to Blow's Venus and Adonis: as in Blow's work, the action does not progress in spoken dialogue but in Italian-style recitative. Both works run to less than one hour. At the time Dido and Aeneas never found its way to the theatre, though it appears to have been very popular in private circles. It is believed to have been extensively copied, but only one song was printed by Purcell's widow in Orpheus Britannicus, and the complete work remained in manuscript until 1840, when it was printed by the Musical Antiquarian Society under the editorship of Sir George Macfarren. The composition of Dido and Aeneas gave Purcell his first chance to write a sustained musical setting of a dramatic text. It was his only opportunity to compose a work in which the music carried the entire drama.[13] The story of Dido and Aeneas derives from the original source in Virgil's epic the Aeneid.[15]

Soon after Purcell's marriage, in 1682, on the death of Edward Lowe, he was appointed organist of the Chapel Royal, an office which he was able to hold simultaneously with his position at Westminster Abbey.[10] His eldest son was born in this same year, but his life was short lived.[16] His first printed composition, Twelve Sonatas, was published in 1683.[17][18] For some years after this, he was busy in the production of sacred music, odes addressed to the king and royal family, and other similar works.[19][20] In 1685, he wrote two of his finest anthems, "I was glad" and "My heart is inditing", for the coronation of King James II.[10] One of Purcell's most elaborate, most important and most magnificent works was a birthday ode for Queen Mary. It is titled Come ye Sons of Art, and was written by Nahum Tate and set by Purcell.[21]

In 1687, he resumed his connection with the theatre by furnishing the music for Dryden's tragedy, Tyrannick Love. In this year, Purcell also composed a march and quick-step, which became so popular that Lord Wharton adapted the latter to the fatal verses of Lillibullero; and in or before January 1688, he composed his anthem "Blessed are they that fear the Lord" by express command of the King. A few months later, he wrote the music for D'Urfey's play, The Fool's Preferment. In 1690, he composed the music for Betterton's adaptation of Fletcher and Massinger's Prophetess (afterwards called Dioclesian)[22] and Dryden's Amphitryon. During the first ten years of his mastership, Purcell composed much- precisely how much we can only guess. In 1691, he wrote the music for what is sometimes considered his dramatic masterpiece, King Arthur, with the libretto by Dryden and first published by the Musical Antiquarian Society in 1843. Another one of Purcell's operas is King Arthur, or The British Worthy in 1691.[14] In 1692, he composed The Fairy-Queen (an adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream), the score of which (his longest for theatre)[23] was rediscovered in 1901 and published by the Purcell Society.[24] The Indian Queen followed in 1695, in which year he also wrote songs for Dryden and Davenant's version of Shakespeare's The Tempest, probably including "Full fathom five" and "Come unto these yellow sands". The Indian Queen was adapted from a tragedy by Dryden and Sir Robert Howard.[23] In these semi-operas (another term for which at the time was "dramatic opera"), the main characters of the plays do not sing but speak their lines: the action moves in dialogue rather than recitative. The related songs are sung "for" them by singers, who have minor dramatic roles.

Purcell's Te Deum and Jubilate Deo were written for Saint Cecilia's Day, 1693, the first English Te Deum ever composed with orchestral accompaniment. This work was annually performed at St Paul's Cathedral until 1712, after which it was performed alternately with Handel's Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate Deo until 1743, when both works were replaced by Handel's Dettingen Te Deum.[25]

He composed an anthem and two elegies for Queen Mary II's funeral.[26] Besides the operas and semi-operas already mentioned, Purcell wrote the music and songs for Thomas d'Urfey's The Comical History of Don Quixote, Boudicca, The Indian Queen and others, a vast quantity of sacred music, and numerous odes, cantatas, and other miscellaneous pieces. The quantity of his instrumental chamber music is minimal after his early career, and his keyboard music consists of an even more minimal number of harpsichord suites and organ pieces.[27] In 1693, Purcell composed music for two Comedies: The Old Bachelor, and The Double Dealer. Purcell also composed for five other plays within the same year.[12] In July 1695, Henry Purcell composed an ode for the Duke of Gloucester for his sixth birthday. The ode is titled Who can from joy refrain?.[28] Purcell's four-part sonatas were issued in 1697.[12] In the remaining six years of his life, Henry Purcell wrote music for forty two plays.[12]

Purcell died in 1695 at his home in Dean's Yard, Westminster, at the height of his career. He was believed to be 35 or 36 years old at the time. The cause of his death is unclear: one theory is that he caught a chill after returning home late from the theatre one night to find that his wife had locked him out. Another is that he succumbed to tuberculosis.[29] The beginning of Purcell's will reads:

"In the name of God Amen. I, Henry Purcell, of the City of Westminster, gentleman, being dangerously ill as to the constitution of my body, but in good and perfect mind and memory (thanks be to God) do by these presents publish and declare this to be my last Will and Testament. And I do hereby give and bequeath unto my loving wife, Frances Purcell, all my estate both real and personal of what nature and kind soever..."[30]

Purcell is buried adjacent to the organ in Westminster Abbey. The music that he had earlier composed for Queen Mary's funeral was performed during his as well. Purcell was universally mourned as 'a very great master of music.'  Following his death, the officials at Westminster paid him by unanimously voting that he be buried with no expense in the north aisle of the Abbey.[31] His epitaph reads: "Here lyes Henry Purcell Esq., who left this life and is gone to that blessed place where only his harmony can be exceeded."[32]

Henry Purcell fathered six children by his wife Frances, four of whom died in infancy. His wife, as well as his son Edward (1689–1740) and daughter Frances, survived him.[12] Frances the elder passed away in 1706, having published a number of her husband's works, including the now famous collection called Orpheus Britannicus, in two volumes, printed in 1698 and 1702, respectively. Edward was appointed organist of St Clement Eastcheap, London, in 1711 and was succeeded by his son Edward Henry Purcell (d. 1765). Both men were buried in St Clement's near the organ gallery.

Influence and reputation

A Purcell Club was founded in London in 1836 for promoting the performance of his music, but was dissolved in 1863. In 1876 a Purcell Society was founded, which published new editions of his works. A modern day Purcell Club has been created, and provides guided tours and concerts in support of Westminster Abbey.

"The Flowering of the English Baroque", bronze memorial sculpture by Williams Glynn in a small park on Victoria St, Westminster.

After his death, Purcell was honoured by many of his contemporaries, including his old friend John Blow, who wrote "An Ode, on the Death of Mr. Henry Purcell (Mark how the lark and linnet sing)" with text by his old collaborator, John Dryden. More recently, the English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a famous sonnet entitled simply "Henry Purcell", with a head-note reading: "The poet wishes well to the divine genius of Purcell and praises him that, whereas other musicians have given utterance to the moods of man's mind, he has, beyond that, uttered in notes the very make and species of man as created both in him and in all men generally."

So strong was his reputation that a popular wedding processional was incorrectly attributed to Purcell for many years. The so-called Purcell's Trumpet Voluntary was in fact written around 1700 by a British composer named Jeremiah Clarke as the Prince of Denmark's March.

Purcell also had a strong influence on the composers of the English musical renaissance of the early twentieth century, most notably Benjamin Britten, who created and performed a realisation of Dido and Aeneas and whose The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra is based on a theme from Purcell's Abdelazar. Stylistically, the aria "I know a bank" from Britten's opera A Midsummer Night's Dream is clearly inspired by Purcell's aria "Sweeter than Roses", which Purcell originally wrote as part of incidental music to Richard Norton's Pausanias, the Betrayer of His Country.

In 2009 Pete Townshend of The Who, an English rock band that established itself in the 1960s, identified Purcell's harmonies as an influence on the band's music (in songs such as "Won't Get Fooled Again" (1971) and "I Can See for Miles" (1967))[33]

Michael Nyman, at the request of the director, built the score of Peter Greenaway's 1982 film, The Draughtsman's Contract on ostinati by Purcell from various sources, one misattributed. He credited Purcell as a "music consultant." Another of Purcell's ostinati, in fact the aforementioned Cold Genius aria, was used in Nyman's Memorial.

In Victoria Street, Westminster, there is a bronze monument to Purcell (right), sculpted by Glynn Williams and erected in 1994.

Purcell's works have been catalogued by Franklin Zimmerman, who gave them a number preceded by Z.

In a 1940 interview Ignaz Friedman stated that he considered Purcell as great as Bach and Beethoven.

Popular culture influences

Purcell is among the Baroque composers who has had a direct influence on modern rock and roll; according to Pete Townshend of The Who, Purcell was among his influences, particularly evident in the opening bars of The Who's "Pinball Wizard".[34] The song "Procession" by British rock band Queen looks to be inspired by the processional section from Purcell's "Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary," which was also adapted for the synthesizer by Wendy Carlos to serve as the theme music for the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange. Meanwhile, noted cult New Wave artist Klaus Nomi regularly performed "The Cold Song" from King Arthur during his career, including a version on his debut self-titled album, Klaus Nomi, from 1981; his last public performance before his untimely death was an interpretation of the piece done with a full orchestra in December 1982 in Munich. Purcell wrote the song for a bass, but numerous countertenors have performed the piece in homage to Nomi.

In the 21st century, the soundtrack to the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice features a dance titled "A Postcard to Henry Purcell," which is a version by composer Dario Marianelli of the Abdelazar theme.

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See also

Notes

  1. ^ Wells, J.C., Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. Harlow, Essex: Longman. ISBN 0-582-36467-1
  2. ^ According to Homan and Thompson (Grove Music Online, see References) there is uncertainty regarding the year and day of birth. No record of baptism has been found. The year 1659 is based on Purcell's memorial tablet in Westminster Abbey and the frontispiece of his Sonnata's of III. Parts (London, 1683). The day 10 September is based on vague inscriptions in the manuscript GB-Cfm 88. It may also be relevant that he was appointed to his first salaried post on 10 September 1677, which would have been his eighteenth birthday.
  3. ^ Homan and Thompson (Grove Music Online, see References).
  4. ^ a b Encyclopaedia Britannica 11th ed. 1911, p. 658.
  5. ^ a b Zimmerman, Franklin. Henry Purcell 1659–1695 His Life and Times. (New York City: St. Martin’s Press Inc., 1967), 34.
  6. ^ a b Westrup, J.A. Purcell. (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1975), 8.
  7. ^ Burden, Michael. The Purcell Companion. (Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press, 1995), 55.
  8. ^ Burden, Michael. The Purcell Companion. (Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press, 1995), 58.
  9. ^ Zimmerman, Franklin. Henry Purcell 1659–1695 His Life and Times. (New York City: St. Martin’s Press Inc., 1967), 29.
  10. ^ a b c Hutchings, Arthur. Purcell. (London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1982), 85.
  11. ^ Zimmerman, Franklin. Henry Purcell 1659–1695 His Life and Times. (New York City: St. Martin’s Press Inc., 1967), 65.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Runciman, John F. (1909). Purcell. London: George Bell & Sons. OCLC 5690003.
  13. ^ a b Harris, Ellen T. Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 6.
  14. ^ a b Hutchings, Arthur. Purcell. (London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1982), 54.
  15. ^ Harris, Ellen T. Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 11.
  16. ^ Westrup, J.A. Purcell. (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1975), 41.
  17. ^ London Gazette: no. 1872, p. 2, 25 October 1683. Retrieved on 21 December 2007.
  18. ^ London Gazette: no. 1874, p. 2, 1 November 1683. Retrieved on 21 December 2007. Announcements of the publication of Purcell's Sonata, first for subscribers, then for general purchase
  19. ^ London Gazette: no. 1928, p. 2, 8 May 1684. Retrieved on 21 December 2007.
  20. ^ London Gazette: no. 2001, p. 2, 19 January 1684. Retrieved on 21 December 2007. Announcements of the publication of Purcell's Ode for St Cecilia's Day, first performed, 22 November 1683
  21. ^ Westrup, J.A. Purcell. (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1975), 77.
  22. ^ Muller 1990
  23. ^ a b Hutchings, Arthur. Purcell. (London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1982), 55.
  24. ^ Westrup, J.A. Purcell. (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1975), 75.
  25. ^ Westrup, J.A. Purcell. (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1975), 80.
  26. ^ Westrup, J.A. Purcell. (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1975), 82–83.
  27. ^ Westrup, J.A. Purcell. (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1975), 81.
  28. ^ Westrup, J.A. Purcell. (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1975), 83.
  29. ^ Zimmerman, Franklin. Henry Purcell 1659–1695 His Life and Times. (New York City: St. Martin’s Press Inc., 1967), 266.
  30. ^ Westrup, J.A. Purcell. (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1975), 85.
  31. ^ Zimmerman, Franklin. Henry Purcell 1659–1695 His Life and Times. (New York City: St. Martin’s Press Inc., 1967), 267.
  32. ^ Westrup, J.A. Purcell. (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1975), 86.
  33. ^ Radio Times, 24–30 October 2009, previewing Baroque and Roll (BBC Radio 4, 27 October 2009).
  34. ^ Mfiles.co.uk

References

  • Burden, Michael, ed. Performing the Music of Henry Purcell, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1996.
  • Burden, Michael, ed. Henry Purcell's Operas; The Complete Texts, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2000.
  • Dent, Edward J. Foundations of English Opera, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1928.
  • Duffy, Maureen, Henry Purcell, Fourth Estate Ltd, Londen, 1994.
  • Holman, Peter and Robert Thompson. "Henry Purcell (ii)," Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (accessed 17 March 2006), grovemusic.com (subscription access).
  • Holman, Peter, Henry Purcell, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1994.
  • Holst, Imogen, ed. Henry Purcell 1659–1695: Essays on His Music, Oxford University Press, London, 1959.
  • Keates, Jonathan, Purcell, Chatto & Windus, Londen, 1995
  • Moore, R. E., Henry Purcell and the Restoration Theatre, Greenwood Press, Westport CT, 1961.
  • Muller, Julia, Words and Music in Henry Purcell's First Semi-Opera, Dioclesian, Edwin Mellen Press, New York, 1990.
  • Orrey, Leslie and Rodney Milnes, Opera: A Concise History, World of Art, Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-20217-6.
  • Price, Curtis A., Henry Purcell and the London Stage,Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1984.
  • Shay, Robert, and Robert Thompson, Purcell Manuscripts: The Principal Musical Sources Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2000.
  • Wells, John C., Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. Harlow, Essex: Longman. ISBN 0-582-36467-1.
  • Westrup, Jack A., Purcell, Dent & Sons, Londen 1980
  • Zimmerman, Franklin B., Henry Purcell, 1659–1695, His Life and Times, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia PA, 1983
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

External links


Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Henry Purcell
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The poet wishes well to the divine genius of Purcell and praises him that, whereas other musicians have given utterance to the moods of man’s mind, he has, beyond that, uttered in notes the very make and species of man as created both in him and in all men generally.
 
HAVE, fair fallen, O fair, fair have fallen, so dear
To me, so arch-especial a spirit as heaves in Henry Purcell,
An age is now since passed, since parted; with the reversal
Of the outward sentence low lays him, listed to a heresy, here.
 
Not mood in him nor meaning, proud fire or sacred fear,
Or love or pity or all that sweet notes not his might nursle:
It is the forgèd feature finds me; it is the rehearsal
Of own, of abrupt self there so thrusts on, so throngs the ear.
 
Let him Oh! with his air of angels then lift me, lay me! only I’ll
Have an eye to the sakes of him, quaint moonmarks, to his pelted plumage under
Wings: so some great stormfowl, whenever he has walked his while
 
The thunder-purple seabeach plumèd purple-of-thunder,
If a wuthering of his palmy snow-pinions scatter a colossal smile
Off him, but meaning motion fans fresh our wits with wonder.

PD-icon.svg This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

'HENRY PURCELL (1658-1695), English musical composer, was born in 1658 in St Ann's Lane, Old Pye Street, Westminster. His father, Henry Purcell (or Pursell), was a gentleman of the chapel-royal, and in that capacity sang at the coronation of Charles II.; he had three sons, Edward, Henry and Daniel - the last of whom (d. 1717) was also a prolific composer. After his father's death in 1664 young Henry Purcell was placed under the guardianship of his uncle, Thomas Purcell (d. 1682), a man of extraordinary probity and kindness. Through the interest of this affectionate guardian, who was himself a gentleman of His Majesty's chapel, Henry was admitted to the chapel-royal as a chorister, and studied first under Captain Henry Cooke (d. 1672), "master of the children," and afterwards under Pelham Humfrey (1647-1674), his successor, a pupil of Lully. He is said to have composed well at nine years old; but the earliest work that can be certainly identified as his is an ode for the king's birthday, written in 1670. (The dates for his compositions are often uncertain, though recent research has done much to fix them more authoritatively.) After Humfrey's death he continued his studies under Dr John Blow. In 1676 he was appointed copyist at Westminster Abbey - not organist, as has sometimes been erroneously stated - and in the same year he composed the music to Dryden's Aurenge-Zebe, and Shadwell's Epsom Wells and The Libertine. These were followed in 1677 by the music to Mrs Behn's tragedy, Abdelazor, and in 1678 by an overture and masque for Shadwell's new version of Shakespeare's Timon of Athens. The excellence of these compositions is proved by the fact that they contain songs and choruses which never fail to please, even at the present day. The masque in Timon of Athens is a masterpiece, and the chorus "In these delightful pleasant groves" in The Libertine is constantly sung with applause by English choral societies. In 1679 he wrote some songs for Playford's Choice Ayres, Songs and Dialogues, and also an anthem, the name of which is not known, for the chapel-royal. From a letter written by Thomas Purcell, and still extant, we learn that this anthem was composed for the exceptionally fine voice of the Rev. John Gostling, then at Canterbury, but afterwards a gentleman of His Majesty's chapel. Purcell wrote several anthems at different times for this extraordinary voice, a basso profundo, the compass of which is known to have comprised at least two full octaves, from D below the stave to D above it. The dates of very few of these sacred compositions are known; but one, "They that go down to the sea in ships," though certainly not written until some time after this period, will be best mentioned here. In thankfulness for a providential escape of the king from shipwreck Gostling, who had been of the royal party, put together some verses from the Psalms in the form of an anthem, and requested Purcell to set them to music. The work is a very fine one but very difficult, and contains a passage which traverses the full extent of Gostling's voice, beginning on the upper D and descending two octaves to the lower.

In 1680 Dr Blow, who had been appointed organist of Westminster Abbey in 1669, resigned his office in favour of his pupil; and Purcell, at the age of twenty-two, was placed in one of the most honourable positions an English artist could occupy. He now devoted himself almost entirely to the composition of sacred music, and for six years entirely severed his connexion with the theatre. But during the early part of the year, and in all probability before entering upon the duties of his new office, he had produced two important works for the stage, the music for Lee's Theodosius and D'Urfey's Virtuous Wife. The composition of his opera Dido and Aeneas, which forms a very important landmark in the history of English dramatic music (see Opera), has been attributed to this period, though its earliest production has been shown by Mr W. Barclay Squire to have been between 1688 and 1690. It was written to a libretto furnished by Nahum Tate, at the request of Josiah Priest, a professor of dancing, who also kept a boarding-school for young gentlewomen, first in Leicester Fields and afterwards at Chelsea. It is a musical drama in the strictest sense of the term, a genuine opera, in which the action is entirely carried on in recitative, without a word of spoken dialogue from beginning to end; and the music is of the most genial character - a veritable inspiration, overflowing with spontaneous melody, and in every respect immensely in advance of its age. It never found its way to the theatre, though it appears to have been very popular among private circles. It is believed to have been extensively copied, but one song only was printed by Purcell's widow in Orpheus Britannicus, and the complete work remained in manuscript until 1840, when it was printed by the Musical Antiquarian Society, under the editorship of Sir George Macfarren.

In 1682 Purcell was appointed organist of the chapel-royal, vice Edmund Lowe deceased, an office which he was able to hold conjointly with his appointment at Westminster Abbey. He had recently married, his eldest son being born in this year. His first printed composition, Twelve Sonatas, was published in 1683. For some years after this his pen was busily employed in the production of sacred music, odes addressed to the king and royal family, and other similar works. - In 1685 he wrote two I The Libertine was suggested by Tirso de Molina's tale, El Burlador de Sevilla, afterwards dramatically treated by Moliere and chosen by Da Ponte as the foundation of Mozart's Don Giovanni. of his finest anthems, "I was glad" and "My heart is inditing," for the coronation of James II. In 1687 he resumed his connexion with the theatre by furnishing the music for Dryden's tragedy, Tyrannic Love. In this year also Purcell composed a march and quick-step, which became so popular that Lord Wharton adapted the latter to the fatal verses of Lillibulero; and in or before January 1688 he composed his anthem "Blessed are they that fear the Lord," by express command of the king. A few months later he wrote the music for D'Urfey's play, The Fool's Preferment. In 1690 he wrote the songs for Dryden's version of Shakespeare's Tempest, including "Full fathom five" and "Come unto these Yellow Sands," and the music for Betterton's adaptation of Fletcher and Massinger's Prophetess (afterwards called Dioclesian) and Dryden's Amphitryon; and in 1691 he produced his dramatic masterpiece, King Arthur, also written by Dryden, and first published by the Musical Antiquarian Society in 1843. In 1692 he composed songs and music for The Fairy Queen (an adaptation of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream), the score of which (discovered in 1901) was edited in 1903 for the Purcell Society by J. S. Shedlock.

But Purcell's greatest work is undoubtedly his Te Deum and Jubilate, written for St Cecilia's Day, 1694, the first English Te Deum ever composed with orchestral accompaniments. In this he pressed forward so far in advance of the age that the work was annually performed at St Paul's Cathedral till 1712, after which it was performed alternately with Handel's Utrecht Te Deum and Jubliate until 1743, when it finally gave place to Handel's Dettingen Te Deum. Purcell did not long survive the production of this great work. He composed an anthem for Queen Mary's funeral, and two elegies. He died at his house in Dean's Yard, Westminster, on the 21st of November 1695, and was buried under the organ in Westminster Abbey. He left a widow and three children, three having predeceased him. His widow died in 1706. She published a number of his works, including the now famous collection called Orpheus Britannicus (two books, 1698, 1702).

Besides the operas already mentioned, Purcell wrote Don Quixote, Bonduca, The Indian Queen and others, a vast quantity of sacred music, and numerous odes, cantatas and other miscellaneous pieces. (See the list in Grove's Dictionary of Music.) A Purcell Club was founded in London in 1836 for promoting the performance of his music, but was dissolved in 1863. In 1876 a Purcell Society was founded, which has done excellent work in publishing new editions of his works.


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Simple English

For other people named Purcell see Purcell (disambiguation)

Henry Purcell (born Westminster, London, 1659; died Westminster, November 21, 1695) was an English composer. Most musicians think he is the greatest English composer of all times. Although he only lived until he was 36 he wrote a very large amount of music. His compositions include church music, instrumental music, music for the theatre, even popular drinking songs. He wrote the first English opera. He lived in the time called the Baroque period. He liked Italian and French music, and combined those styles to make something that was typically English.

Contents

His life

Early years

We do not know very much about Purcell’s childhood. In 1664 his father died and Henry went to live with his uncle, Thomas Purcell, who was very kind to him. Thomas Purcell was a gentleman of the Chapel Royal which meant that he sang in the king’s choir. Soon Henry was singing in the Chapel Royal. This was the best musical training a boy could have in England. His teachers were Captain Henry Cooke, and then Pelham Humfrey. Henry sang in the choir until his voice broke in 1673. He was then given the job of looking after the king’s musical instruments.

Purcell may have been composing already when he was nine. We know that he wrote an ode for the King's birthday in 1670. When Humfrey died Purcell studied with the famous composer John Blow. He went to Westminster School. In 1676 he was made organist at Westminster Abbey. He started writing music for the theatre. He also wrote church music, including an anthem for a singer called John Gostling who had a very good, deep bass voice. Purcell wrote several anthems for him during his life. One is called "They that go down to the sea in ships". It goes down to a low D.

File:Henry Purcell
Another portrait of Henry Purcell

Later career and death

In 1680, Blow, who had been made organist of Westminster Abbey in 1669, resigned so that the 22-year-old Purcell could have his job. Purcell then spent the next six years just writing sacred (religious) music. Later he went back to writing music for the theatre, including the first English opera Dido and Aeneas.

In 1682 Purcell became organist of the Chapel Royal. He did this job as well as being organist at Westminster Abbey. His first printed composition, Twelve Sonatas, was published in 1683. Music printing was expensive in those days, so it was unusual to have something printed. He continued to write music including odes to the king and royal family. In 1685, he wrote two of his finest anthems, "I was glad" and "My heart is inditing", for the coronation of King James II.

In 1687 he wrote more theatre music. Sometimes this music was for masques (a kind of ballet with some singing as well), sometimes it was music for tragedies, e.g. plays by Dryden. In 1691, he wrote King Arthur, also written by Dryden. In 1692, he composed songs and music for The Fairy-Queen (an adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream). Purcell’s music for this was lost for many years, and was rediscovered and published in 1901. In these works the characters in the plays do not sing, they speak their lines.

Purcell's Te Deum and Jubilate was written for Saint Cecilia's Day, 1693, the first English Te Deum ever composed with orchestral accompaniment. He composed an anthem and two elegies for Queen Mary II's funeral.

Death

He was very famous when he died in 1695, possibly from tuberculosis. His wife and three of his six children survived him.

Purcell is buried next to the organ in Westminster Abbey. His epitaph reads, "Here lyes Henry Purcell Esq., who left this life and is gone to that blessed place where only his harmony can be exceeded."

His music

Purcell wrote a lot of music for the theatre. He was born one year before the time known in England as the “Restoration”. Before the Restoration Oliver Cromwell had been ruling England for nearly 20 years. Most music had been banned. People were therefore very glad to be able to make music again, and they wanted lots of songs and instrumental music in their plays. Opera, however, was not wanted. In Europe opera was very popular in countries such as Italy, Germany and France, but it did not become popular in England until Handel came to England in 1709 and introduced Italian opera.

Dido and Aeneas is an exception because it is a real opera: everything is sung, and the words are in English. It was written for a performance at a girls’ school. It is quite short, lasting just one hour. It contains the famous lament When I am laid in earth sung by Dido.

Purcell wrote a very large amount of music for the church. This includes anthems and service settings. Although he was an organist he wrote very little for organ. He wrote chamber music, including some very beautiful fantasias for viols.

Influence

Although Purcell was recognized as a great composer at the time he did not have much influence on other composers after his death. He was the last in a line of great English musicians in the 16th and 17th centuries. After his death English music was not as important as it had been. In the 18th century the music heard in England was largely imported from the continent, e.g. Italian opera.

Much later, in the 20th century, English composers were often inspired by Purcell’s music. Benjamin Britten wrote a piece called The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra which is based on a tune from Purcell's Abdelazar. The aria "I know a bank" from Britten's opera A Midsummer Night's Dream is inspired by Purcell's aria "Sweeter than Roses". Sir Michael Tippett loved Purcell’s harmonies and rhythms and they influenced him in his compositions.


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