Henry Purcell

Andrew Woolley

in Music

ISBN: 9780199757824
Published online June 2011 | | DOI:
Henry Purcell

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Henry Purcell (b. 1659–d. 1695) is considered a major 17th-century composer and a luminary of English musical history. It is recognized that he consolidated English musical traditions stemming back to the middle of the 16th century and drew particularly upon Italian-style music of the 17th, reinventing and building upon them in highly inventive ways. For much of his life he followed a career pattern similar to those of his predecessors, being engaged principally as a composer for the Chapel Royal and the court. From the early 1670s and during the 1680s he composed orchestral anthems and other sacred music, ceremonial, and other large-scale non-dramatic works in addition to Dido and Aeneas, consort music, other kinds of secular vocal music, and keyboard music. Later he energetically turned to composing for the theater, and in the process contributing to the later development of the genre of “dramatick opera”; in this sense his life and work can be seen as anticipating the more commercial milieu of the 18th century. Although important publications of Purcell’s music appeared during his lifetime, a large quantity of it was published posthumously in an unprecedented series of collections. The first of these was A Choice Collection of Lessons for the Harpsichord or Spinnet in 1696, and the last was Orpheus Britannicus: A Collection of the Choicest Songs, The Second Book in 1702. He was widely eulogized after his untimely death, notably by those who wrote poetic elegies to him that appeared in Orpheus Britannicus in 1698, in which the publisher Henry Playford commented on his “peculiar Genius to express the Energy of English Words.” The nature of the early reception of Purcell’s music has had a powerful and lasting influence on the composer’s reputation since the 18th century. Only in comparatively recent years have scholars come to a more sophisticated understanding of the sources and the composer’s working environments.

Article.  7487 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Applied Music ; Ethnomusicology ; Music Theory and Analysis ; Musicology and Music History ; Music Education and Pedagogy

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