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Purcell's Venues

Donald Macleod explores the music and life of Henry Purcell. Today, an excursion around six key Purcellian venues, from pint-sized York Buildings to gargantuan Westminster Abbey.

Donald Macleod explores the music and life of Henry Purcell. Today, an excursion round six key Purcellian venues, from pint-sized York Buildings to gargantuan Westminster Abbey.

Music-lovers in late-seventeenth-century London had plenty of opportunity to hear Purcell’s music, and in all sorts of places, from taverns to palaces. But above all it was associated with a select group of venues. In the chapel of the old Palace of Whitehall, Purcell’s ‘symphony anthems’ were regularly heard. The vast, reverberant spaces of Westminster Abbey drew from him a more expansive kind of choral music. During Purcell’s lifetime, York Buildings was London’s only purpose-built concert hall, but its tiny dimensions – around 900 square feet – made it unsuitable for large-scale performances; for these, Stationers’ Hall was the venue of choice. Purcell spent much of the last five years of his life producing music for the theatre, in particular for the Duke’s Theatre in Dorset Garden, which was equipped to stage the most spectacular productions. The more modest Hall Theatre, originally the medieval hall at the centre of the Palace of Whitehall, is where Purcell’s welcome songs and royal birthday odes would have been heard.

The Fairy Queen, Z629 (Act 3, Symphony while the swans come forward)
The Monteverdi Choir
The English Baroque Orchestra
John Eliot Gardiner, conductor

Rejoice in the Lord alway, Z49 (‘Bell anthem’)
The Choir of New College, Oxford
The Band of Instruments
Edward Higginbottom, director

Ye tuneful Muses, Z344 (‘Ye tuneful Muses, raise your heads’ – ‘This point of time ends all your grief’)
Ben Davies, Stuart Young, bass
Jeremy Budd, tenor
The Sixteen
Harry Christophers, conductor

Hail, Bright Cecilia, Z328 (Symphony)
Gabrieli Players
Paul McCreesh, conductor

My heart is inditing, Z30
Tessa Bonner, Patrizia Kwella, soprano
Kai Wessel, countertenor
Paul Agnew, William Kendall, tenor
Peter Kooy, bass
Collegium Vocale Gent
Philippe Herreweghe, conductor

The Fairy Queen, Z629
(Act 4, extract)
Gillian Fisher, soprano (an attendant)
Simon Berridge, Philip Daggett, tenor
Ian Partridge, tenor (Phoebus)
The Sixteen
The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Harry Christophers, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Cymru Wales

59 minutes

Music Played

  • Henry Purcell

    The Fairy Queen, Z629 (Act 3, Symphony while the swans come forward)

    Choir: Monteverdi Choir. Orchestra: English Baroque Soloists. Conductor: Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
    • ARCHIV 419 2212.
    • ARCHIV.
    • 23.
  • Henry Purcell

    Rejoice in the Lord alway, Z49 (Bell anthem)

    Choir: Choir of New College Oxford. Ensemble: The Band of Instruments. Conductor: Edward Higginbottom.
    • CRD CRD3504.
    • CRD.
    • 3.
  • Henry Purcell

    Ye tuneful Muses, Z344 (extracts)

    Choir: The Sixteen. Conductor: Harry Christophers.
    • CORO : COR16151.
    • CORO.
    • 5.
  • Henry Purcell

    Hail, Bright Cecilia, Z328 (Symphony)

    Ensemble: Gabrieli Players. Director: Paul McCreesh.
    • ARCHIV 478 3640.
    • ARCHIV.
    • 1.
  • Henry Purcell

    My heart is inditing, Z30

    Singer: Tessa Bonner. Singer: Patrizia Kwella. Singer: Kai Wessel. Singer: Paul Agnew. Singer: William Kendall. Singer: Peter Kooij. Choir: Collegium Vocale Gent. Conductor: Philippe Herreweghe.
    • HARMONIA MUNDI HMG 508462.63.
    • HARMONIA MUNDI.
    • 5.
  • Henry Purcell

    The Fairy Queen, Z629 (Act IV, extract)

    Singer: Gillian Fisher. Singer: Simon Berridge. Singer: Philip Daggett. Singer: Ian Partridge. Choir: The Sixteen. Orchestra: Symphony of Harmony and Invention. Conductor: Harry Christophers.
    • CORO COR16005.
    • CORO.
    • 2.

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