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The Death of a Queen

How Purcell's theatrical ventures were interrupted by Queen Mary's death. Having made some of his most memorable music for her funeral, he returned to the stage for the last time.

Henry Purcell's stageworks: a birthday Ode and a Royal death inspire Purcell to write some of his most finest music. It's not too long though before he's back writing for the stage once again.
Across the week Donald Macleod charts Purcell's activities during the reign of William and Mary. Cutbacks at court meant fewer commissions, but even though Purcell was asked to write less church music, he was able to cater admirably to the Royal taste for music for special occasions and write prolifically for the theatre.

Walk along the North Quire Aisle of Westminster Abbey and you'll come to the tablet commemorating Henry Purcell. One of the pre-eminent musicians of the age, he died, unexpectedly and tragically early in 1695 at the age of 37. Yet despite the brevity of his life, Purcell left behind a rich musical legacy. Indeed, with little in the way of biographical detail remaining, it's through his music that glimpses of his character emerge. He was a gifted and prolific composer who wrote with skill and imagination for the opera, the church, theatre, royal patrons and even small domestic forces. Born a few hundred yards away from the Abbey, just south of Tothill Street, as a child he survived the Great Plague and the Fire of London. A chorister of the Chapel Royal, he went on to hold positions at court and at Westminster Abbey over three reigns, Charles II, James II and William and Mary, seemingly able to weather the political storms and prosper under each successive monarchy.

In the final part of Donald Macleod's series on Purcell's dramatic works, Purcell's theatrical ventures are interrupted by the death of Queen Mary. Having written some of his most memorable music for her funeral, Purcell returns to the stage for the last time.

1 hour

Last on

Fri 13 Feb 2015 18:30

Music Played

  • Henry Purcell

    Abelazer [sic] - airs, arr. & publ. F.Purcell - Hornpipe

    Director: Peter Holman. Director: Roy Goodman. Ensemble: The Parley of Instruments.
  • Henry Purcell

    Come ye sons of art away - birthday song for Queen Mary Z.323 5a; Strike the viol, touch the lute

    Performer: Tabea Debus. Performer: Bojan Čičić. Performer: William Carter. Performer: Pamela Thorby. Performer: Richard Egarr. Performer: Stephen Pedder. Performer: Julia Kuhn. Performer: Mark Levy. Singer: Iestyn Davies.
    • Wigmore Hall Live WHLive-0065.
    • Wigmore Hall Live.
    • 2.
  • Henry Purcell

    Man that is born of woman (Funeral sentences) Z.27 for soli, chorus & bc [inc.

    Ensemble: Equale Brass. Conductor: Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Choir: Monteverdi Choir.
    • ERATO : 2292-45123-2.
    • ERATO.
    • 11.
  • Henry Purcell

    Sonata - 1697 no. 2 in E flat major Z.803 for 2 violins and continuo

    Ensemble: Retrospect.
    • LINN RECORDS : CKD 33-2.
    • 5.
  • Henry Purcell

    The Indian queen - opera Z.630 Act 3 extract

    Singer: Tessa Bonner. Choir: The Purcell Simfony Voices. Singer: Peter Harvey. Singer: Rogers Covey‐Crump. Singer: Steven Liley. Orchestra: Purcell Simfony. Director: Catherine Mackintosh. Singer: Catherine Bott. Singer: Sally Bruce-Payne.
    • LINN RECORDS : CKD- 035.
    • 18.
  • Henry Purcell

    Now that the sun hath veiled his light Z.193 (An Evening hymn on a ground) for

    Performer: Elizabeth Kenny. Singer: Carolyn Sampson.
    • BIS : SACD-1536.
    • BIS.
    • 19.


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