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Composer: Purcell, Henry (1659-1695)

Fact file
Year of birth1659
Year of death1695
NationalityUnited Kingdom
PeriodBaroque
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Evening performance
Matinee performance
Upcoming eventsSee more...

LondonBaroque Christmas Concert

Baroque Christmas Concert
Purcell, Bach, Handel, Buxtehude, Corelli, Monteverdi
Baroque Encounter; Lucy Thomas; Glenn Kesby; Lauren Brant

RigaSergejs Jegers Ave Maria

Purcell, Franck, Handel, Vavilov, Saint-Saëns
Sergejs Jēgers; Dita Krenberga; Diāna Jaunzeme-Portnaja

LondonNora Fischer and Mike Fentross

Nora Fischer and Mike Fentross
Purcell, Peri, Strozzi, Monteverdi, Landi
Nora Fischer; Mike Fentross

LondonConcert-drama Ceruleo

Concert-drama Ceruleo
Purcell
Thomas Guthrie; Emily Owen; Jenni Harper; Satoko Doi-Luck

LondonDipper Malkin with Nick Hennessy storyteller

Dipper Malkin with Nick Hennessy storyteller
Purcell
John Dipper; Unknown
Latest reviewsSee more...

Dido and Aeneas rescue a disappointing Baroque triple bill from ETO

Nicholas Mogg (Aeneas), Alison Manifold and Sky Ingram (Dido) © Richard Hubert Smith
English Touring Opera's triple bill of early Baroque miniatures promised an intruiging evening but failed up to expectations. 
**111
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A great Dido and Aeneas pairing in Adelaide

Kate Louise Macfarlane (Belinda), Bethany Hill (Dido) and Raphael Wong (Aeneas) © Bernard Hull Photography
A richly sung Dido and Aeneas in an imaginative venue becomes an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
****1
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Stark and grief-stricken: Dido and Aeneas at the Barbican

Caitlin Hulcup and Rowan Pierce © Mark Allan | Barbican
A semi-staged Dido from the Academy of Ancient Music and the speculative funeral music for a queen.
****1
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Modern Queens: Anna Prohaska at the Proms

Anna Prohaska, Giovanni Antonini and Il giardino armonico © BBC | Chris Christodoulou
Anna Prohaska reigns supreme in programme of Cleopatra and Dido-inspired Baroque arias in her late night Prom.
****1
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O/MODƏRNT at Wigmore Hall: A descent into melodrama

Hugo Ticciati © Marco Borggreve
Conceptually, the programme of descending and rising fourths offered a real treat: in practice, the musicians' skill was in danger of being lost as they attempted to recover from their opening gimmickry.
***11
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Biography

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