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Composer: Purcell, Henry (1659-1695)

Find classical music concert, opera, ballet and dance listings | Purcell
August 2020
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JūrmalaPhilharmonia Orchestra & Alexandre Kantorow piano

Riga Tourism Development Bureau
Purcell, Tchaikovsky, Dvořák
Philharmonia Orchestra; TBC; Alexandre Kantorow

Chalfont St GilesDido and Aeneas

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Purcell: Dido and Aeneas
Jonathan Darbourne; Thomas Guthrie; Esther Mallett; Angela Hicks; Betty Makharinsky; Katie Bray

AmsterdamEarly Opera Company: Purcell's King Arthur

© Phil Poynter
Purcell: King Arthur
Christian Curnyn; Early Opera Company; Lindsay Duncan; Lucy Crowe; Anna Dennis; Mark Milhofer

MadridPurcell, Beethoven

Purcell, Beethoven
Purcell, Beethoven
Orquesta Sinfónica de RTVE; Pablo González; Coro de RTVE

LondonChiaroscuro Quartet – Beethoven Early Quartets: Concert II

© Eva Vermandel
Purcell, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn
Chiaroscuro Quartet
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Inspired by Elizabethan music: Gardner and the Bergen Phil

Edward Gardner © Bergen Philharmonic
The Bergen Phil and the Edvard Grieg Choir trace music from Elizabethan themes to 20th century works on them, culminating in Pärt's Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten.
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Post-lockdown Sibelius from Daniel Harding and the Swedish RSO

Daniel Harding © Arne Hyckenberg
Although filled with beauty and sweetly played, the fragmentation of the symphony felt too disruptive.
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Manze turns his attention to Vaughan Williams' Job

Andrew Manze © Benjamin Ealovega
A performance Vaughan Williams' Job to truly cherish, with Manze using all his experience to produce a mature and thrilling account of this masterpiece.
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The Gabrielis shine in Purcell's confusing King Arthur

Paul McCreesh © Ben Wright

King Arthur is an opera without a plot and, in musical terms at least, Arthur without the King.

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Luminous mysteries from the Australian Chamber Orchestra

Luminous © Julian Kingma
The pictures win out as Bill Henson's powerful, complex and mysterious images take on the ACO's music, ranging from REM to Pēteris Vasks.
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The nonpareil of English music

Henry Purcell enjoyed a meteoric career and a reputation that outshone that of all his contemporaries. He was brought up in the tradition of English contrapuntal choral music, becoming organist of Westminster Abbey at just twenty-two years old, but his main career was as a court composer at a time when French and Italian baroque styles were flooding into London. Uniquely, Purcell married the three traditions. He combined an impeccable ear for baroque harmony and instrumentation with a natural ability for counterpoint and a rare talent for setting words to music.

Together with his one-time teacher John Blow and the Italian immigrant Giovanni Battista Draghi, he created English baroque opera, with his Dido and Aeneas remaining the most popular of the genre. The shifting religious and court politics of his day resulted in his writing in a wide variety of styles, including everything from court odes to viol suites and keyboard music. His vocal music ranged from large scale hymns and anthems to intimate and popular songs which people would sing in the street. He could write sacred music of elegance and beauty, but was also a master of "catches", humurous part-songs with bawdy or seditious words.

To read more about Purcell's life and music, click on this biography of Purcell by the BBC's Terry Barfoot.

Key works
If you're unfamilar with Purcell's music, you have some treats in store. Listen to Dido's Lament from Dido and Aeneas, an extraordinary musical picture of the depths of despair, the Anthems and Services with their huge variety of vocal colour, or the wonderfully intricate instrumental fantasies (the Fantasy upon one note is particularly fine). To get you started, click here for a selection

List of works
Anthem: I was glad, when they said unto meBirthday ode for Queen Mary / Come ye sons of art, away, Z323Blow up the Trumpet in Sion, Z 10Chaconne in G Minor, Z 730Dido and AeneasFantasies: variousFantasy no. 11 for 4 viols in G major, Z 742Fantasy no. 5 for 4 viols in B flat major, Z 736Fantasy no. 7 for 4 viols in C minor, Z 738Fantasy no. 9 for 4 viols in A minor, Z 740Full bags, a brisk bottle Z249Hark, how the wild musicians sing, Z 542Harmonia Sacra: An Evening Hymn on a groundHarpsichord Suite no. 2 in G minor, Z 661Harpsichord Suite no. 7 in D minor, Z 668Hear my prayer, O Lord, Z 15How have I stray'd, my God, Z 188I will sing unto the Lord, Z 22If ever I more riches did desire, Z 544If music be the food of love, Z 379If pray'rs and tears (On the death of Charles II), Z380King ArthurLet mine eyes run down with tearsLord, What is Man? Z 192Man that is born of a woman, Z27Miserere mei, (Have Mercy on me, O God), Psalm 51Music for the funeral of Queen MaryMy Heart is InditingO God Thou hast cast us out, Z 36O Sing unto the Lord, Z 44Ode for the Birthday of Queen Mary: Welcome, welcome, glorious morn, Z338Oedipus: Music for a While, Z 583 no.2Orpheus Britannicus, collection of songsRejoice in the Lord Alway, "The Bell Anthem", Z 49Remember not, O Lord, our offences, Z 50Sleep, Adam, Sleep, Z 195Sonata V in A minor, Z.794Sonata VI in C Major, Z.795Sweeter than roses, Z 585The Blessed Virgin's Expostulation, Z 196The Fairy Queen, Z 629: suiteThe Indian Queen: I attempt from love's sickness to fly, Z 630The Tempest, Z.631: Overture in G minorThou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts, Z 58BWhile Thyrsis, wrapt in downy sleep (A Pastoral Coronation Song) Z437Why, Why Are All The Muses Mute?, Z343