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Henry Purcell 1659-1695

I. Purcell’s Personal Life & Influences
o Father was gentleman of Chapel Royal; sang at coronation
of King Charles II of England
o After father’s death in 1664, uncle became guardian
 Uncle was gentleman of His Majesty’s chapel
 Arranged for Purcell to be admitted as chorister
o Began composing at eight-nine years of age
 Earliest work: ode for the King’s birthday, 1670
o Studied under organist Dr. John Blow, who in 1680 resigned
his Westminster Abbey post in favour of his pupil, Purcell at
22 yrs
o Wrote often for Rev. John Gostling, a fine basso profondo,
with a range of two full octaves
o Married in 1682
o Appointed organist of the Chapel-Royal, while retaining his
Westminster Abbey position: held both until his death
 Provided anthems, welcome songs, birthday odes,
coronation music
o Died in 1695 at age 36; wife and three of six children
survived him

II. Style of Purcell
o Dido and Aeneas: first genuine English opera
 Owes much to Blow’s Venus and Adonis: action
progresses in recitatives
 Unusally, it was never produced in a theatre, but was
popular in private circles
 Only known performance during Purcell’s lifetime
was at a girls’ boarding school in Chelsea

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Henry Purcell 1659-1695
 Later semi-operas contain finer music, but Dido
anticipates many aspects of 19th-century opera
o Youthful works have irregular dissonance, later work is
more conservative
o Sophisticated counterpoint
o Highly flexible rhythms and phrase lengths
o Motivic and harmonic coherence
o King Arthur shows influence of Lully’s operas

III. Works of Purcell
• Music to John Dryden’s Aureng-Zebe
• Music to Thomas Shadwell’s Epsom Wells & The
(“In These Delightful Pleasant Groves” is from
• Music to Aphra Behn’s tragedy, Abdelazar
• Overture & masque for Shadwell’s Timon of Athens.
• Songs for John Playford’s Choice Ayres, Songs and
• Anthems: “I Was Glad” & “My Heart is Inditing” for the
coronation of King James II
• Additional incidental music for plays
• Te Deum and Jubilate for Saint Cecilia’s Day (1693): first
ever with orchestral accompaniment
o Annually performed at St. Paul’s Cathedral until
o Then alternated with Handel’s Utrecht Te Deum
and Jubilate until 1743
o Replaced by Handel’s Dettingen Te Deum
• Anthem and two elegies for Queen Mary’s funeral
• Operas: Don Quixote, Boudicca, The Indian Queen,

IV. Purcell on Required Music Lists
Kansas Required List
KS Level 1 SAB Come, Sing a Joyful Song Purcell/Liebergen Shawnee
KS Level 2 SATB Come, Ye Sons of Art Purcell POP Hal Leonard
KS Level 3 SSA My Dearest, My Fairest Purcell/Dunt POP Gentry

Idaho Required List
Class C SA Sound the Trumpet Purcell/Erb LG 787
Class C SATB Three Short Anthems Purcell/Shaw-Parker LG 624
Class C SATB In These Delightful Pleasant Groves

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Henry Purcell 1659-1695
Bour B206649-353
Texas Prescribed List – see below

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