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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Henry Purcell celebrated in wealth of performance, discussion and talks on Radio 3

During March, BBC Radio 3 focuses upon the music of Henry Purcell, marking the 350th anniversary of the composer's birth. A wealth of performance, discussion and talks are broadcast across the schedule from 16 to 22 March creating an in-depth portrait of the composer.

Musicians Andrew Parrott, Emma Kirkby, Jeremy Summerly and Nicholas Kraemer join the station to provide a performer's insight into his music.

Other programmes explore the wider musical and cultural context with contributors such as academic Andrew Pinnock and writer Jonathan Keates. Selected poetry and prose from the composer's lifetime is read by Kenneth Cranham and Juliet Stevenson.

This is part of Radio 3's Composers Of The Year 2009 marking the anniversaries of Purcell, Handel, Haydn and Mendelssohn.

Programmes on Radio 3 go on location to explore Purcell's London and in Music Matters, Tom Service pieces together the little that is known about the composer, with evidence recorded in different venues around Westminster, the locality in which he lived, worked and died.

Aled Jones introduces the BBC Singers performing various completions by contemporary composers of Purcell's Hear My Prayer. This work is probably just the surviving fragment of a larger work which would have been one of nearly 70 anthems and services; much of this repertoire was written for the Chapel Royal and Aled recreates a day in the composer's choral life in The Choir.

Westminster Abbey, where Purcell was the organist and where he is buried, is the venue for a special Choral Evensong; James O'Donnell, the current Organist and Master of the Choristers, directs St James's Baroque and the Choir of Westminster Abbey for this service broadcast live from the Abbey.

Contemporary composers have celebrated Purcell's music in their own work. This is reflected in a concert performed by the London Sinfonietta broadcast in Radio 3's Hear and Now.

The programme features arrangements by Oliver Knussen, Steve Martland, Elliot Carter and Peter Maxwell Davies all based upon Purcell's Fantasia Upon One Note. It also includes Colin Matthews' arrangement and completion of Purcell's Fantasia no.13 and an arrangement of Purcell's Fantasia No. 7 by George Benjamin.

Musicians and academics discuss aspects of Purcell's music across the week in The Essay: Andrew Parrott expands upon his research into performing Purcell's music and the musicians for whom Purcell wrote; Sir Nicholas Kenyon presents a general survey of the changes in performance practice in Purcell's music; Andrew Pinnock explores why Purcell's reputation has stood the test of time over that of his contemporaries and Roger Savage focuses upon Purcell and the theatre.

There is further exploration of the literary context of Purcell's output in the Early Music Show as scholar and historian Jonathan Keates joins Catherine Bott to look at the writers whose texts were set to music by the composer.

Kenneth Cranham and Juliet Stevenson read prose and poetry spanning Purcell's life in Words And Music. The programme also includes eyewitness accounts of the great events from his time, from the great diarists Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn, and contemporary poets including Dryden.

Purcell's Dido And Aeneas receives a new interpretation at the Royal Opera House directed by Wayne McGregor, with the performance conducted by Christopher Hogwood. It will be broadcast on Radio 3 in June.

Stephen Johnson discusses the work with conductor Nicholas Kraemer in Discovering Music: they look at what made it unique both in terms of Purcell's output and the wider music scene at the time and analyse the characterisation and dramatic pacing.

The Manchester Camerata and soloists from the Royal Northern College of Music perform extracts to illustrate the key points under discussion.

Dido And Aeneas is also the subject of CD Review's 'Building a Library' as conductor Jeremy Summerly joins Andrew McGregor to guide listeners through the many recordings available of this popular work.

Listeners are invited to contact Radio 3 Requests to suggest their own favourite works by the composer and soprano Emma Kirkby, a celebrated exponent of Purcell's vocal music, guest presents this special edition of the programme.

Across the week Classical Collection explores the revival of interest in Purcell's music which gained momentum from the late 1940s onwards.

Sarah Walker focuses particularly upon musicians who championed the composer such as Tippett and Britten who both conducted and arranged his works and other British performers including Alfred Deller and those in Europe who followed the trend.

In the Early Music Show Mahan Esfahani, Radio 3's first period instrument New Generation artist, performs the composer's harpsichord suites.

In Performance On 3, Harry Christophers directs The Sixteen in a Purcell programme, interspersed with works by James MacMillan and later highlights include Hervé Niquet and his acclaimed period ensemble Le Concert Spirituel in Purcell's King Arthur broadcast from London's Barbican Centre.

On BBC Two, Purcell is the subject of the first programme in The Birth Of British Music. Charles Hazlewood investigates what life would have been like for a composer in 17th century London and how Purcell's music captured the sounds of the time.

The programme explores how Purcell stepped outside the confines of the court into the expanding arena of Restoration theatre, and how his brilliant, idiomatic settings of the English language have created a benchmark for generations of British composers since.

Online, visitors to Radio 3's website bbc.co.uk/radio3 can keep up to date with details of Purcell-related broadcasts and performances, a picture gallery and links to other related Purcell websites. Listeners can read and comment on the Purcell blog and there is the opportunity to receive updates of broadcasts and events around the anniversary celebrations by text.

Radio 3 revisits Purcell later in the year around the anniversary of his alleged birthday in September and there is a second weekend of special programmes in November.

Notes to Editors

Director-General Mark Thompson recently pledged a deeper commitment to arts and music on the BBC, with a range of initiatives aimed at supporting cultural Britain and better serving the public.

Purcell on BBC Radio 3

16 – 20 March

11.00am Classical Collection

The week's programmes focus on the part Tippett, Britten and Alfred Deller played in reviving the fortunes of Purcell from the late 1940s onwards and includes recording of each conducting performances of his music. It also looks at those musicians who took up their lead in the 1960s and 70s - in the UK David Munrow and Philip Ledger and on the continent Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Gustav Leonhart.

11.00pm The Essay

Andrew Parrott expands upon his research into performing Purcell's music and the musicians for whom Purcell wrote; Sir Nicholas Kenyon presents a general survey of the changes in performance practice in Purcell's music; Andrew Pinnock explores why Purcell's reputation has stood the test of time over that of his contemporaries and Roger Savage focuses upon Purcell and the theatre.

18 March

4.00pm Choral Evensong from Westminster Abbey

Choir of Westminster Abbey/St James's Baroque, conducted by James O' Donnell

20 March 7.30pm Performance on 3

Concert by The Sixteen conducted by Harry Christophers
Purcell: Jehova Quam Multi Sunt Hostes Mei Miserere Mei; Remember Not, Lord, Our Offences; Beati Omnes Qui Timent Dominum
Macmillan: O Bone Iesu
Purcell: Let Mine Eyes Run Down With Tears
Macmillan: Mitte Manum Tuam (from The Strathclyde Motets); A Child's Prayer; Sedebit Dominus Rex fFrom The Strathclyde Motets)
Purcell: O Dive Custos; Funeral Sentences (1st Set)

Saturday 21 March 9.00am

CD Review Building a Library

Jeremy Summerly discusses recordings of Purcell's Dido And Aeneas.

12.00pm Music Matters

Tom Service goes in search of the real Henry Purcell on location in Westminster.

1.00pm Early Music Show

Mahan Esfahani performs harpsichord music by Purcell and his contemporaries.
Suite No. 1 in G and the Blow Morlake Ground in G
Suite No. 2 in G and Chacony in G
Suite No. 5 in C and Ground in C
Suite No. 6 in D and Gavotte
Suite No. 7 in D and Ground in D and Siface's Farewell

10.30pm Hear and Now

Ryan Wigglesworth directs the London Sinfonietta in a concert recorded at LSO St Luke's. Programme includes arrangements by Steve Martland, Elliot Carter, Peter Maxwell Davies and Oliver Knussen based on the Fantasia on One Note. George Benjamin's arrangement of Purcell's Fantasia no.7 and Colin Matthews' arrangement and completion of Purcell's Fantasia no.13. The programme also features two new works by Michael Zev Gordon and James Saunders.

12.00am Early Music Show

Purcell in the Ale House and Songs

Sunday 22 March

10.00am Ian Burnside

The programme includes works by Purcell and a guest joins Iain in the studio to talk about the composer.

1.00pm Early Music Show

Catherine Bott talks to the scholar and historian Jonathan Keates about Purcell and his poets.

2.00pm Radio 3 Requests

Emma Kirkby introduces listeners' requests of music by Purcell

4.00pm Choral Evensong (rpt from 18 March)

5.00pm Discovering Music

On Purcell's Dido And Aeneas.Stephen Johnson and Nicholas Kraemer discuss the work with music performed by soloists from the Royal Northern College of Music and Manchester Camerata.

6.30pm The Choir

BBC Singers performing various completions by contemporary composers of Purcell's Hear My Prayer. Aled Jones re-creates a day in the composer's choral life in Westminster.

10.15pm Words and Music

Music by Purcell and his contemporaries and Kenneth Cranham and Juliet Stevenson read prose and poetry spanning Purcell's life. The programme also includes eyewitness accounts of the great events from his time, from the great diarists Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn, and contemporary poets including Dryden.

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