Henry Purcell (1659-1695).

Henry Purcell as born and died in London in the years of 1659 and 1695. Undoubtly he is the most important english composer of the 17th century. and no english composer would achieve his musical dimension (being that Häendel was german...)

Purcell was a son of a violin player of the king's orchestra, and studied with several composers, among them John Blow. In 1647 he was appointed tuner of the Westminster’s Abbey church organ, and in 1677 composer for the king's violinists.

In London, it was Purcell who most importance had in the cities musical life, and his work considering how little he livede, is varied and extense. He composed the first english opera (Dido and Aeneias), semi.operas, odes, religious music, scenic music, and chamber music.

Purcell's music is an enchanting melting pot of lullist”grandeur", of great thematic originality, and of a mundainety at times remarkable, as in the comical moments of his semi.operas. Furthermore, he combines to these charecteristics an unassuming simplicity in the composition of vocal themes. But perhaps the best of this composer is found in his three part sonatas, viol fantasies and "curtain music" sets.

His best known works are the semi-operas, as "The Fary Queen" and "King Arthur", a masterpiece of the kind.

His only opera, "Dido and Aeneias", is unquestionably Purcell's masterpiece: it is admirable the expressiveness of the recitative and aria "Belinda in thy bosom/When I am lay'd", one of the greatest arias ever written.

Of his religious music, the most outstanding sets are those composed for the funeral of Queen Mary in 1695, the elegies, the hymns and the marches.

As a contemporary described Purcell: "at last a composer as good or better than those foreign"


Henry Purcell: Dido and Aeneias (final chorus)


Reccomended recordings:

"Come ye Sons of Atr", "Love´s Godess Sure Was Blind", "Now Does The Glorious Day Appear" (odes): Choir and Orchestra of the Age of Enligtenment, Gustav Leonhardt, Virgin Veritas.

"The Indian Queen": The Scholars Baroque Ensemble, Naxos.

"Dido and Aeneas": von Otter, Varcoe, The English Concert and Choir, Pinock, Archiv.

"The Fary Queen": The Sixteen, Cristophers, Collins Classics. 

"King Arthur": Smith, Fisher, Priday, Ross, Stafford, Elliot, Varcoe, Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Solists, Gardiner, Erato.

"Fantasias for the Viols": Hespèrion XX, Savall, Auvidis Fontanalis.