Purcell - pop musician of his day?
Naturally, it is not difficult to spot the similarities. They both wrote songs and they both wrote operas, as you say, kleines c. I think, though, for there to be a worthwhile parallel, Townshend would have to have been at some point, a church musician, but as far as I know he wasn't even a chorister. Thomas Ades is a better example. He has even made a point of re-working the early baroque. We are talking about art songs here, not pop, which may be what you mean by 'neo-platonic use of the pedestrian and simple', precious. Purcell was capable of that too (Thou knowest Lord, Hush no more, the Funeral Music for Queen Mary, Dido's Lament) but sparingly and therefore the more effectively. Admittedly, there must be some similarity in choice of text between Townshend's 'A Quick One While He's Away' and Purcell's 'My Lady's Coachman John' but as far as the musical contrast goes, I cannot comment, never having heard the former.
If the idea is less that Townshend is really a serious composer and more that Purcell was a pop one, I think that position in Purcell's day was already taken by the balladeers and folk musicians. I refer readers to the anecdote about Purcell boring Queen Mary with his harpsichord compositions. She asked if he couldn't play something more popular like 'Cold and Raw'. I'll give her cold and raw, he said to himself and made the tune the bass line under the words 'May her blest example' in the 1692 Birthday Ode. I'd be interested to know if Townshend has ever pulled off such a contrapuntal feat.
French frank: Are you saying Townshend was a carpet-fitter? I'd no idea. Was he any good? It's very difficult to get a decent one these days.
None of this gets us any nearer the point, though. Is it only at Westminster Abbey* and the Wigmore Hall that Purcell is to be celebrated this St Cecilia's Day? Fiori Musicali promised me last year they'd be doing something, perhaps at Stationers' Hall, but I've not heard. And anyway - I was forgetting - it's not one leading composer but two to celebrate. Britten is traditionally accepted as the inheritor of Purcell's mantle, given the nature of his work and the fact that, as Purcell died, so he was born at St Ceciliatide. I don't see Townshend moving up the list. How is he marking the day?
*The concert will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Sunday 22 November, 6.30-8.30pm, the Feast of St Cecilia, and the occasion on which both the Te Deum & Jubilate and Ode on St Cecilia's Day were first performed. The broadcast forms part of the station's Purcell Weekend.