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Abdelazer – Rondeau by Henry Purcell

Abdelazer – Rondeau by Purcell: An exciting introduction

Lemn Sissay explores Purcell's piece using facts, insight and spooky animation.

Composed in 1695, Henry Purcell's Abdelazer suite takes us back to the theatres and masques (presentations of poetry, dance and music) of the late 17th Century. Henry Purcell wrote lots of incidental music for the theatre. In some ways it was used as film music is used today – to set different moods and transport us between different parts of the story.

Purcell's music influenced one of our other Ten Pieces composers, Benjamin Britten. He used this Rondeau as the basis for The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra – another great piece for children to explore.

Listen out for: The structure of the piece. Purcell was using a pattern – or plot – called a French rondeau to create his piece. The structure is: AABACA. A is the main melody, B is the strain, C is the second strain, and then it goes back to the beginning!

Watch the introduction film at the top of the page then starting exploring the music:

Watch the full orchestral performance

Watch the full performance of the piece, played by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Rafael Payare:

Abdelazer – Rondeau by Henry Purcell

MP3: Listen to or download the music

Download the Rondeau MP3

To save to your computer: PC - right-click and save, Mac - ctrl-click and save.

Lesson plans: Six weeks of learning and activities

Download lesson plans for six weeks of learning and activities for Rondeau, as Powerpoint presentations or PDFs. These lesson plans are ideal for music lessons, but you can of course use the Ten Pieces in many other subjects and activities. Take a look at our video masterclasses for inspiration.

To enable all images to work in the Powerpoint files please save the file to your computer. To save to your computer: PC - right-click and save, Mac - ctrl-click and save.

Primary lesson plans:

Suitable for:

  • Key Stage 2 in England and Wales
  • Second Level, P5-P7 in Scotland
  • Key Stage 1/Key Stage 2 in Northern Ireland

Written by Rachel Leach.

Arrangements: Play the piece with simplified parts

All parts have been designed to work together to enable mixed-ability groups to perform together

Beginner/pre-Grade 1:

Intermediate/Grade 1-3:

Grade 4-5:

Other scores:

Please get in touch with the Ten Pieces team if there are minor adjustments you would like to make for your ensemble.

Notes from the arranger

By Iain Farrington

All parts have been designed to work together to enable mixed-ability groups to perform together. A certain amount of simplification has been required to adapt the pieces for mixed-ability. Some pieces have been cut to allow a 3-5 minute general duration and to remove especially difficult passages of music. A successful rendering of each piece would require the essential melodic material and bass line which are often in the Grades 4/5 parts, especially in the piano.

There are scores for each difficulty level plus three other scores for each piece:

  1. Grouped according to ability
  2. Grouped according to instrument type
  3. 'Short score' in C, grouped according to ability

There are three ability levels – beginner, intermediate (Grades 1-3) and Grades 4-5.

  • Flute parts can be played by the violins
  • Oboe parts can be played by the flutes and violins
  • Trumpet parts (in Bb) can be played by the clarinets
  • Violin parts can be played by the flutes (except when in the lowest register)
  • The 'percussion' part is a beginner part and can be played on any drum. It adds a simple rhythm layer to each piece. Timpani and full percussion parts are for intermediate or Grades 4/5

Watch the full performance

Abdelazer – Rondeau by Purcell: The full performance

Watch the full performance of Henry Purcell's piece by the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

About the composer


BORN: 1659 / DIED: 1695 / NATIONALITY: British

England's greatest composer until the 20th Century, Henry Purcell was an organist and composer who is still much admired for his English songs. He was from a musical family who lived very close to Westminster Abbey and as a youngster was made a chorister and then assistant to the organist and 'Keeper of the King's Instruments'. During this time, he learnt his craft composing mostly vocal music whenever the opportunity came his way. Later, he split his time between writing sacred music for the Abbey, royal commissions and music for the theatre. Today, over 300 songs of his survive. Purcell died aged just 35 or 36. It seems that he was late home from the theatre and his wife locked him out. He caught a chill after spending the night outside and died shortly after from it. He is buried in Westminster Abbey and was mourned as a 'very great master of music'.