Henry Purcell


Henry Purcell

Henry Purcell (IPAEng|ˈpɜrsəl; [Wells] 10 September 1659 (?) [Grove] – 21 November 1695, was an English Baroque composer. He has often been called England's finest native composer.Fact|date=March 2008 Purcell incorporated Italian and French stylistic elements but devised a peculiarly English style of Baroque music.

Biography

Early life and career

Purcell was born in St Ann's Lane, Old Pye Street, Westminster. Henry Purcell Senior [Grove] was a gentleman of the Chapel Royal, and sang at the coronation of King Charles II of England. 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.

After his father's death in 1664, Purcell was placed under the guardianship of his uncle, who showed him great affection and kindness. 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), master of the children, and afterwards under Pelham Humfrey (d. 1674), Cooke's successor. 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.

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. (The dates for his compositions are often uncertain, despite considerable research.) After Humfrey's death, Purcell continued his studies under Dr. John Blow. He attended Westminster School, and in 1676 he was appointed organist at Westminster Abbey, and in the same year he composed the music to John Dryden's "Aureng-Zebe" and Thomas Shadwell's "Epsom Wells" and "The Libertine". These were followed in 1677 by the music to Aphra Behn's tragedy, "Abdelazar," and in 1678 by an overture and masque for Shadwell's new version of Shakespeare's "Timon of Athens". The chorus "In these delightful pleasant groves" from "The Libertine" is still performed.

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.

Later career and death

In 1680, Blow, who had been appointed organist of Westminster Abbey in 1669, resigned his office in favour of his pupil, who was still only twenty-two. 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". 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. It was written to a libretto furnished by Nahum Tate, and performed in 1689 in cooperation with Josiah Priest, a dancing master and the choreographer for the Dorset Garden Theatre. Priests's wife kept a boarding school for young gentlewomen, first in Leicester Fields and afterwards at Chelsea, where the opera was performed. 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.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. His eldest son was born in this same year. His first printed composition, "Twelve Sonatas", was published in 1683. [LondonGazette|issue=1872|startpage=2|date=25 October 1683|accessdate=2007-12-21 LondonGazette|issue=1874|startpage=2|date=1 November 1683|accessdate=2007-12-21 Announcements of the publication of Purcell's "Sonata", first for subscribers, then for general purchase] 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. [LondonGazette|issue=1928|startpage=2|date=8 May 1684|accessdate=2007-12-21 LondonGazette|issue=2001|startpage=2|date=19 January 1684|accessdate=2007-12-21 Announcements of the publication of Purcell's "Ode for St Cecilia's Day", first performed, 22 November 1683] 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 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") [Muller 1990] and Dryden's "Amphitryon". 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. In 1692, he composed "The Fairy-Queen" (an adaptation of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream"), the score of which was rediscovered in 1901 and published by the Purcell Society. "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". 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" was 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" until 1743, when both works were replaced by Handel's "Dettingen Te Deum".

He composed an anthem and two elegies for Queen Mary II's funeral. 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.

He died at his house in Dean's Yard, Westminster, in 1695, at the height of his career; he was in his mid-thirties. The cause of Purcell's death is unclear: one theory is that he caught a chill after returning late from the theatre one night to find that his wife had locked him out; another is that he succumbed to tuberculosis. 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..."

Purcell is buried adjacent 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."

Purcell's wife Frances and three of his six children survived him. Frances died in 1706, having published a number of his works, including the now famous collection called "Orpheus Britannicus", in two volumes, printed in 1698 and 1702, respectively. Purcell's son Edward (1689-1740) became organist of St Clement Eastcheap, London, in 1711. The latter's son Edward Henry Purcell (d. 1765), thus Henry Purcell's grandson, succeeded him in this post. Both men were buried in St Clement's.

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.

After his death, Purcell was honored 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 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." The main theme from the soundtrack of the film "A Clockwork Orange" is from Purcell's "Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary". It was adapted for the synthesizer by Walter Carlos. 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.

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".

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 the 21st century, the soundtrack to the 2005 film version of "Pride & Prejudice" features a dance titled "A Postcard to Henry Purcell," which is a version by composer Dario Marianelli of the same "Abdelazar" theme used in "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra".

On Victoria Street, Westminster, there is a bronze monument to Purcell, 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.

Media

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.
* "Grove Music Online" [http://www.grovemusic.com/ grovemusic.com] (subscription access).
* Holman, Peter and Robert Thompson. "Henry Purcell (ii)," "Grove Music Online", ed. L. Macy (accessed March 17, 2006), [http://www.grovemusic.com/ 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 Milne. "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, J.C. "Longman Pronunciation Dictionary". Harlow, Essex: Longman. ISBN 0-582-36467-1.
* Westrup, J.A. "Purcell", Dent & Sons, Londen 1980
* Zimmerman, Franklin B. "Henry Purcell, 1659-1695, His Life and Times", University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia PA, 1983

Notes

See also

* List of compositions by Henry Purcell
* "Dido and Aeneas"
* "King Arthur"
* "The Fairy-Queen"

External links

* [http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/14430 Purcell] by John F. Runciman, a biography forming part of Bell's Miniature Series of Musicians published in 1909, from Project Gutenberg
*ChoralWiki
*worldcat id|id=lccn-n79-95298
*IckingArchive|idx=Purcell|name=Henry Purcell
*IMSLP|id=Purcell%2C_Henry|cname=Henry Purcell
* [http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/features/purcell.html short biography, audio samples and images of Purcell]
* [http://www.glynnwilliams.co.uk/pagey/ninetyfour.html Monument to Purcell]
* [http://www.phantorg.net/purcell.htm Harpsichord Suites played on virtual harpsichord] [http://www.77books.co.uk Dido's Lament] – Research leading to a narrative account of how Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas was created.

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*1911

Persondata
NAME=Purcell, Henry
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Composer
DATE OF BIRTH=1659
PLACE OF BIRTH=Westminster, England
DATE OF DEATH=death date|df=yes|1695|11|21
PLACE OF DEATH=Westminster, England


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