Henry Purcell
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1659-09-10
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Henry Purcell

Henry Purcell Biography (BBC)

Born in London in 1659, Henry Purcell was the son of a musician in the retinue of Charles II, and it was royal service that was largely to be his world as well. By the time he was 10 he was a chorister at the Chapel Royal, and in 1673, when his voice broke, he became for a while an unpaid assistant to the keeper of the king’s instruments.

His first formal royal appointment came in 1677, when he was created composer-in-ordinary for the violins (in succession to Matthew Locke), and in 1682 he was appointed as one of the organists at the Chapel Royal. In between, he had also become organist of Westminster Abbey (in succession to his teacher and friend, John Blow).

The last years of Charles’s reign were when Purcell composed the bulk of his outstanding output of English church music, culminating in the superb anthems he supplied for the coronation of Charles’s successor, James II, in 1685. His court connections were also responsible for the numerous odes he composed for royal occasions such as birthdays and homecomings, an unpromising genre that he managed to raise to unwonted heights.

The 1680s also saw him beginning to write for the theatre, contributing songs and instrumental pieces to plays by such distinguished Restoration dramatists as Dryden, Congreve and D’Urfey. But it was in 1690 that his theatrical career really took off with the success of Dioclesian, his first venture into the peculiarly English genre of the time, known today as ‘semi-opera’, in which music is mixed with speech. This was followed over the next few years by three works – King Arthur (with words by Dryden); The Fairy Queen (loosely based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream); and The Indian Queen (words again by Dryden) – all written in a similar style.

It is not clear for what purpose Purcell wrote his only through-composed opera, Dido and Aeneas; its first known performance was by pupils at a girls’ boarding school in Chelsea in 1689, but it may have been first produced as a court entertainment some years earlier.

Purcell occupies a central position in British music. More than 300 years after his death he is still arguably the country’s greatest composer, and his music continues to provide successors with both inspiration and a point of cultural identification. Apparent in his church music, stage works and solo songs alike are an exquisite talent for English word-setting, a gift for attractive melody and a capacity for searing expressiveness that have attracted commendation from his own time to ours; he was acclaimed in his own day as ‘the English Orpheus’ and Holst, Vaughan Williams, Britten and Tippett were among his greatest 20th-century admirers. His untimely death at the age of 36 left Britain without a native composer of genius until the arrival of Elgar two centuries later.

Profile © Lindsay Kemp

Henry Purcell Biography (Wikipedia)

Henry Purcell (c. 10 September 1659 – 21 November 1695) was an English composer. Although incorporating Italian and French stylistic elements into his compositions, Purcell's legacy was a uniquely English form of Baroque music. He is generally considered to be one of the greatest English composers; no later native-born English composer approached his fame until Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, William Walton and Benjamin Britten in the 20th century.

This entry is from Wikipedia, the user-contributed encyclopedia. It may not have been reviewed by professional editors and is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike Creative Commons License. If you find the biography content factually incorrect or highly offensive you can edit this article at Wikipedia. Find out more about our use of this data.

Henry Purcell Performances & Interviews


Henry Purcell Tracks

Henry Purcell
Sound the trumpet (Come Ye Sons of Art, Z.323)
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Sound the trumpet (Come Ye Sons of Art, Z.323)

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Henry Purcell
Dido's Lament
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Dido's Lament

Dido's Lament

Ensemble
Babelfish
Singer
Brigette Beraha.
Henry Purcell
Fantasia: 'Three parts upon a ground'
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Fantasia: 'Three parts upon a ground'
Henry Purcell
O solitude, my sweetest choice, Z406
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O solitude, my sweetest choice, Z406
Henry Purcell
Hear my prayer, O Lord, Z15
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Hear my prayer, O Lord, Z15
Henry Purcell
When I am laid in earth & Final Chorus (Dido and Aeneas)
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When I am laid in earth & Final Chorus (Dido and Aeneas)
Henry Purcell
King Arthur (Chaconne)
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King Arthur (Chaconne)
Henry Purcell
Come ye sons of art away Z.323: See nature, rejoicing, has shown us the way
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Come ye sons of art away Z.323: See nature, rejoicing, has shown us the way
Henry Purcell
The Prophetess, or The history of Dioclesian Z.627: Since the toils
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The Prophetess, or The history of Dioclesian Z.627: Since the toils
Henry Purcell
King Arthur, or The British worthy Z.628: Symphony
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King Arthur, or The British worthy Z.628: Symphony
Henry Purcell
Dido and Aeneas Z.626: When I am laid in earth (Dido's lament)
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Dido and Aeneas Z.626: When I am laid in earth (Dido's lament)
Henry Purcell
King Arthur Z.628: Frost scene; While the Cold Genius See, we assemble
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King Arthur Z.628: Frost scene; While the Cold Genius See, we assemble
Henry Purcell
Bonduca Z.574: Divine Andate; To arms; Britons, strike home
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Bonduca Z.574: Divine Andate; To arms; Britons, strike home
Henry Purcell
The Tempest, or The enchanted isle Z.63: Arise, ye subterranean winds
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The Tempest, or The enchanted isle Z.63: Arise, ye subterranean winds
Henry Purcell
The Fairy Queen Z.629: O let me weep
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The Fairy Queen Z.629: O let me weep
Henry Purcell
Fantazia upon one note in F major Z.745
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Fantazia upon one note in F major Z.745
Henry Purcell
Come ye sons of art away Z.323: Bid the virtues, bid the graces
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Come ye sons of art away Z.323: Bid the virtues, bid the graces
Henry Purcell
The Fairy Queen Z.629: Next, winter comes slowly
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The Fairy Queen Z.629: Next, winter comes slowly
Henry Purcell
Dido and Aeneas Z.626: The Witches' dance
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Dido and Aeneas Z.626: The Witches' dance
Henry Purcell
King Arthur Z.628: Symphony; Hither this way; Let not a moon-born elf
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King Arthur Z.628: Symphony; Hither this way; Let not a moon-born elf
Henry Purcell
King Arthur, or The British worthy Z.628: Come if you dare
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King Arthur, or The British worthy Z.628: Come if you dare
Henry Purcell
Bonduca, or The British heroine: To arms, your ensigns straight display
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Bonduca, or The British heroine: To arms, your ensigns straight display
Henry Purcell
Fairest Isle (King Arthur)
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Fairest Isle (King Arthur)
Henry Purcell
Hail, Welcome Prince (From Hardy Climes, Z.325)
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Hail, Welcome Prince (From Hardy Climes, Z.325)
Henry Purcell
Strike the viol (Come ye sons of art)
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Strike the viol (Come ye sons of art)
Henry Purcell
Three Parts upon a Ground
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Three Parts upon a Ground
Henry Purcell
Music for a while (Oedipus)
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Music for a while (Oedipus)
Henry Purcell
The Sparrow and the gentle dove; So all the boons (From hardy climes, Z.325)
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The Sparrow and the gentle dove; So all the boons (From hardy climes, Z.325)
Henry Purcell
Dido's Lament
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Dido's Lament
Henry Purcell
Here the deities approve: 3. Welcome to all the pleasures, Z339
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Here the deities approve: 3. Welcome to all the pleasures, Z339
Henry Purcell
Hear My Prayer, O Lord
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Hear My Prayer, O Lord
Henry Purcell
Come, Ye Sons of Art - Strike the viol
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Come, Ye Sons of Art - Strike the viol
Henry Purcell
The Fairy Queen (Prelude; Hornpipe; Air; Rondeau; Overture)
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The Fairy Queen (Prelude; Hornpipe; Air; Rondeau; Overture)

The Fairy Queen (Prelude; Hornpipe; Air; Rondeau; Overture)

Orchestra
Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Last played on
Henry Purcell
Fantazia No 10 in E minor for four instruments
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Fantazia No 10 in E minor for four instruments
Henry Purcell
Dido's Lament arr Rees-Williams
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Dido's Lament arr Rees-Williams
Johann Caspar Seyfert
Amor vincit omnia (Seyfert); Oh Solitude (Purcell)
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Amor vincit omnia (Seyfert); Oh Solitude (Purcell)
Henry Purcell
King Arthur (Overture)
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King Arthur (Overture)
Henry Purcell
Oedipus, Z. 583: No.2 - Music for a While (arr Britten)
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Oedipus, Z. 583: No.2 - Music for a While (arr Britten)
Henry Purcell
Sweeter than Roses
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Sweeter than Roses
Henry Purcell
O solitude, my sweetest choice Z.406
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O solitude, my sweetest choice Z.406
Henry Purcell
Dido's Lament
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Dido's Lament
Henry Purcell
Sound the trumpet (Come ye sons of art)
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Sound the trumpet (Come ye sons of art)
Henry Purcell
Hear my prayer, O Lord
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Hear my prayer, O Lord

Hear my prayer, O Lord

Conductor
Scott Inglis-Kidger
Last played on
Henry Purcell
The Fairy Queen, Act 4 Symphony
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The Fairy Queen, Act 4 Symphony
Henry Purcell
The Fairy Queen: Monkey Dance, Chaconne, Fifth Act Tune
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The Fairy Queen: Monkey Dance, Chaconne, Fifth Act Tune
Henry Purcell
Sonata IX in F major 'Golden'
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Sonata IX in F major 'Golden'
Henry Purcell
An Evening Hymn 'Now that the sun hath veiled his light', Z193
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An Evening Hymn 'Now that the sun hath veiled his light', Z193
Henry Purcell
Music for a While Z 583 No.2
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Music for a While Z 583 No.2
Henry Purcell
O, I'm sick of life, Z.140
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O, I'm sick of life, Z.140
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