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Friday Night Organ: BACK to Merry old England post civil war and Henry Purcell!
Henry Purcell (1659---1695) was perhaps one of the greatest English composers of Baroque music. Purcell was born in St Ann's Lane, Old Pye Street, Westminster, an area of London later known as the Devil's Acre, just a few hundred yards west of Westminster Abbey, and one year after the restoration of the monarchy. (Cromwell had died two years hence).He was the eldest of three brothers. When their father died in 1664 the boys were placed under the guardianship of their Uncle Thomas Purcell. (died 1682) Thomas Purcell was a musician and a gentleman of His Majesty's Chapel Royal. Indeed, Thomas Purcell sang at the coronation of King Charles the II of England in 1649. After the English civil war Charles returned to the throne in 1660. Around 1669 Thomas arranged for the young Henry to be admitted as a chorister at the abbey.
Henry studied under Henry Cooke, and later Pelham Humfrey, both holding the position of “the Master of the Children”. I'm sure this is merely a noble position as choir director but it really sounds creepy. The composer Matthew Locke was a friend of Thomas Purcell and a frequent visitor to the Purcell household. Henry remained a chorister until age 14, when his voice broke—no more soprano for you young man! He then became the assistant/apprentice to John Hingston; and organ builder and the royal “keeper of wind instruments to the King”. Please gentlemen NO jokes about the Queen, Catherine Braganza as a wind instrument! The famous organist John Blow had been appointed organist of Westminster in 1669 and Purcell spent a number of years studying under Blow.
Historians claim Purcell began composing at the age of nine but the earliest work to come down to us is an ode for the King's birthday, written in 1670. It is assumed that the three-part song Sweet tyranness, I now resign was written by him as a child. In 1676 was appointed Abbey copyist. 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 be read at morning prayer on the fourth day of the month. In 1679, he wrote songs for John Playford's Choice Ayres, Songs and Dialogues, and an anthem, the name of which is unknown, for the Chapel Royal. From an extant letter written by Thomas Purcell we learn that this anthem was composed for the exceptionally fine basso voice of the Rev. John Gostling, then at Canterbury, but afterwards a gentleman of His Majesty's Chapel. Gostling's extraordinary voice is known to have had a range of at least two full octaves from D below the bass staff to the D above it.
In 1679, Blow resigned from his office as organist in favor of Purcell. 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. Between 1680 and 1688 Purcell wrote music for seven plays. The composition of his chamber opera Dido and Aeneas (from the Virgil) 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 Josias Priest, a dancing master and choreographer. Priest's wife kept a boarding school for young gentlewomen, first in Leicester Fields and afterwards at Chelsea, where the opera was performed. It is considered the first genuine English Opera. At the time, Dido and Aeneas never found its way to the theater, though it appears to have been very popular in private circles.
In 1682, upon the death of Edward Lowe, Purcell was appointed organist of the Chapel Royal, an office which he was able to hold simultaneously with his position at Westminster Abbey. His first printed composition, Twelve Sonatas, was published in 1683.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. 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 1690 he composed a setting of the birthday ode for Queen Mary Arise, my muse and four years later wrote one of his most elaborate, important and magnificent works – a setting for another birthday ode for the Queen, written by Nahum Tate, entitled Come Ye Sons of Art.
In 1687, he resumed his connection with the theater by furnishing the music for John Dryden's tragedy Tyrannick Love. In this same year, Purcell also composed a march called Quick-step, which became so popular that Lord Wharton adapted the latter to the fatal verses of Lillibullero; and in or before January 1688, Purcell 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 Massings Prophetess (afterwards called Dioclesian) and Dryden's Amphitryon. In 1691, he wrote the music for what is sometimes considered his dramatic masterpiece, King Arthur, or The British Worthy In 1692, he composed The Fairy Queen (an adaptation of Shakespeare's a Mid summer Night's Dream), the score of which (his longest for theater) was rediscovered in 1901.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. In these "dramatic operas" 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 Day 1694 It was 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 Ultrecht 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 music, songs and a vast quantity of sacred music, odes, cantatas etc. 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. In the final six years of his life, Purcell wrote music for forty-two plays.
Purcell died in 1695 at his home in Marsham Street, at the height of his career. He is believed to have been 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 theater 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.
OK now onto the music and for a guy who died at 35 we have a SHIT TON of music!
We open with a collection of Anthems and Hymns:
- Rejoice In The Lord Alway 0:00
- Three Voluntaries For Organ 8:11
- Praise The Lord, O Jerusalem 12:10
- Awake, And With Attention Hear 21:20
- O Praise God In His Holiness 33:18
- Thou Wakeful Shepherd 41:57
- Now That The Sun Hath Veil'd His Light 44:49
- My Beloved Spake 48:49
- Two Verses For Organ 1:00:12
- In Thee, O Lord, Do I Put My Trust 1:05:09
And now his music for Harpsichord:
- Suite No. 1 in G major ZT660 0:05
- Chaconne in G minor Z 680 4:11
- Suite No.2 in G minor Z661 7:07
- Ground ZT 681 15:55
- Suite No. 3 in G major Z662 19:52
- A New Ground ZT 682 26:58
- Suite No. 4 in A minor Z 663 29:24
- Ground in Gamut Z645 38:04
- Suite No. 5 in C major Z666 40:03
- Ground ZD 221 47:44
- Suite No. 6 in D major Z667 50:42
- Round O ZT684 54:40
- Suite No. 7 in D minor Z 668 55:54
- Ground ZD 222 1:03:00
- Suite No. 8 in F major Z669 1:04:42
OK now here is his 10 sonatas:
Had enough? Well I'm not going to post the Fairy Queen or the Indian Queen. I have both of these works and listened to them in some detail and to be honest without seeing the actual performance they loose something. Nor am I going to post any of the funeral music—its good stuff but VERY depressing.
And if you are not sonata'ed out yet here are 12 MORE sonatas:
Mentioned above is the Te Deum---well here it is with some other sacred music:
01 Te Deum and Jubilate Deo, for soloists, chorus, & instruments in D major, Z. 232
02 Te Deum and Jubilate Deo, for soloists, chorus, & instruments in D major, Z. 232
03 My beloved spake, anthem for alto, tenor, 2 basses, chorus, strings & continuo, Z. 28
04 O God, thou art my god, anthem for 2 sopranos, alto, tenor, bass, double chorus & organ, Z. 35
05 Lord, how long wilt Thou be angry, anthem for alto, tenor, bass, chorus & organ, Z. 25
06 Remember not, Lord, our offences, anthem for chorus & organ, Z. 50
07 Hear my prayer, O Lord, anthem for chorus, violins & continuo, Z. 15 (unfinished)
The one and only opera I'm including is King Arthur---and its pretty DAMN good.
Next up we have one of my personal favorites the Voluntary on Old 100th (the Doxology) AND NO John Blow didn't compose this and Purcell didn't rip it off from him. IT is totally Purcell.
And we close out with another favorite of mine the famous “Trumpet tune and Ayer” this time pounded out by Diana Bish on the huge Ruffatti organ at Coral Ridge Pres.