Henry Purcell

Biography

Born: 1659; England   Died: Nov 21, 1695; England  
As England's greatest composer of the Baroque, Henry Purcell was dubbed the "Orpheus Britannicus" for his ability to combine pungent English counterpoint with expressive, flexible, and dramatic word settings. While he did write instrumental music, including the important viol fantasias, the vast majority of his output was in the vocal/choral realm. His only opera, Dido and Aeneas, divulged his sheer mastery in the handling of the work's vast Read more expressive canvas, which included lively dance numbers, passionate arias and rollicking choruses. Purcell also wrote much incidental music for stage productions, including that for Dryden's King Arthur. His church music includes many anthems, devotional songs, and other sacred works, but few items for Anglican services.

Purcell was born in 1659 to Henry Purcell, master of choristers at Westminster Abbey, and his wife Elizabeth. When he was five, his father died, forcing his mother to resettle the family of six children into a more modest house and lifestyle. In about 1668, Purcell became a chorister in the Chapel Royal, studying under chorus master Henry Cooke. He also took keyboard lessons from Christopher Gibbons, son of the composer Orlando Gibbons, and it is likely that he studied with John Blow and Matthew Locke. In 1673, Purcell was appointed assistant to John Hingeston, the royal instrument keeper.

On September 10, 1677, Purcell was given the Court position of composer-in-ordinary for the violins. It is believed that many of his church works date from this time. Purcell, a great keyboard virtuoso by his late teens, received a second important post in 1679, this one succeeding Blow as organist at Westminster Abbey, a position he would retain all his life. That same year saw the publication of five of the young composer's songs in John Playford's Choice Ayres and Songs to Sing to the Theorbo-lute or Bass-viol. Around the same time, he began writing anthems with string accompaniment, completing over a dozen before 1685, and welcome songs. Purcell was appointed one of three organists at the Chapel Royal in the summer of 1682, his most prestigious post yet.

Purcell composed his first ode for St. Cecilia's Day in 1683. The following month, upon Hingeston's death, he was named royal instrument keeper while retaining his other posts. The composer remained quite prolific in the middle part of the decade, primarily producing music for royal occasions. In 1685 the new King, James II, introduced many changes at Court, one of which was to make Purcell the Court harpsichordist and Blow the Court composer. Near the end of 1687, Queen Mary's pregnancy was announced and Purcell was commissioned to compose an anthem for Psalm 128, Blessed are they that fear the Lord. Many other of his anthems appeared in 1688, as did one of his more famous ones for church use, O sing unto the Lord.

With the ascension of William and Mary to the throne on April 11, 1689, Purcell retained his post as royal instrument keeper, and he, along with Blow and Alexander Damazene, shared the duties of Court composers. With his royal duties reduced, he was able to pursue other opportunities, including teaching and writing for other organizations. One of Purcell's greatest successes came in 1689 with the production of Dido and Aeneas. He then collaborated with John Dryden on King Arthur in 1691, and also composed the music for The Fairy-Queen (1692), based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream both productions also scoring triumphs. In the final year of his life Purcell remained exceedingly busy, writing much for the stage, including The Indian Queen, left incomplete at his death on November 21, 1695. Read less

Purcell: Ten Sonatas in Four Parts / King's Consort
Release Date: 07/08/2014   Label: Vivat  
Catalog: 106   Number of Discs: 1
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Purcell: Funeral Sentences, Hail Bright Cecilia / Herreweghe, Collegium Vocale
Release Date: 07/08/2014   Label: Harmonia Mundi  
Catalog: 508462   Number of Discs: 2
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Purcell: Overtures / Thomas, Bournemouth Sinfonietta
Release Date: 10/28/1992   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 8424   Number of Discs: 1
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Purcell: Dido & Aeneas / Parrott, Kirkby, Taverner Players
Release Date: 07/29/1992   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 521   Number of Discs: 1
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Purcell Miscellany / Bott, Bennett, Purcell Quartet
Release Date: 02/28/1995   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 571   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Abdelazer, Z 570 "Moor's Revenge": Rondeau

Browse 1-25 of 51 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Over Hill, Over Dale: English Music For String Orchestra
    Label: Em Records   Catalog: 17 Release Date: 01/14/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henry Purcell,  Harold Drake,  John Ireland,  Clive Jenkins  ... 
    Performer:  Peter Adams,  Peter Fisher,  Maya Iwabuchi
    Conductor:  Peter Fisher
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  • 2.
    Vivaldi The Four Seasons
    Label: Regis   Catalog: 1160 Release Date: 07/12/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henry Purcell,  Johann Pachelbel,  George Frideric Handel,  Johann Sebastian Bach  ... 
    Performer:  Jaime Laredo
    Conductor:  Jaime Laredo
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scottish Chamber Orchestra
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  • 3.
    Purcell: Music For Pleasure And Devotion
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 352982 Release Date: 02/12/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henry Purcell
    Performer:  Emily van Evera,  Andrew Parrott,  Paul Agnew,  David Miller  ... 
    Conductor:  Andrew Parrott
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Taverner Consort,  Taverner Players
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  • 4.
    100 Best Chamber Music
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 972777 Release Date: 11/19/2012   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Various,  Johann Pachelbel,  Henry Purcell,  Antonio Vivaldi  ... 
    Performer:  Renaud Capuçon,  Emmanuel Pahud,  Natalie Clein,  Pinchas Zuckerman  ... 
    Conductor:  Jordi Savall,  Daniel Barenboim,  Fabio Biondi
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Taverner Players,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  Nash Ensemble  ... 
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  • 5.
    The Baroque Collection
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 73420 Release Date: 10/22/2012   Number of Discs: 10
    Composer:  Tomaso Albinoni,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  George Frideric Handel,  Giovanni Palestrina  ... 
    Performer:  Xavier Darasse,  Maurice André,  Guy Touvron,  Pierre Pierlot  ... 
    Conductor:  Louis Auriacombe,  Jörg Faerber,  Jacques Roussel,  Raymond Leppard  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Toulouse Chamber Orchestra,  Württemberg Chamber Orchestra,  Antiqua Musica  ... 
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  • 6.
    Baroque Treasures
    Label: Erato   Catalog: 2579 Release Date: 09/25/2012   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Claudio Monteverdi,  George Frideric Handel,  Johann Pachelbel,  Antonio Vivaldi  ... 
    Performer:  David Daniels,  Chiara Bianchini,  Janet See,  Andrew Lawrence-King  ... 
    Conductor:  Emmanuelle Haïm,  Roger Norrington,  Andrew Parrott,  Richard Hickox  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Taverner Players,  Taverner Consort,  Concerto Cologne  ... 
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  • 7.
    100 Best British Classics
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 27315 Release Date: 05/22/2012   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel,  Thomas Tallis,  John Goss,  Charles Villiers Stanford  ... 
    Performer:  Jacqueline Du Pré,  Hugh Bean,  Gerald Moore,  Dame Janet Baker  ... 
    Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury,  Sir Philip Ledger,  Sir David Willcocks,  Sir Adrian Boult  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of Ancient Music,  Cambridge King's College Choir,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields  ... 
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  • 8.
    The Galileo Project / Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra [CD & DVD]
    Label: Tafelmusik Media   Catalog: 1001 Release Date: 03/27/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Antonio Vivaldi,  Jean-Baptiste Lully,  Claudio Monteverdi,  Tarquinio Merula  ... 
    Conductor:  Jeanne Lamon
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tafelmusik
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  • 9.
    Ring A Ring O' Roses: Songs And Dances For Children
    Label: Gift Of Music   Catalog: 518 Release Date: 04/26/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Playford,  Traditional,  Jeremiah Clarke,  Henry Purcell  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Musica Donum Dei
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  • 10.
    50 Best Baroque
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 57503 Release Date: 06/29/2010   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel,  Jeremiah Clarke,  John Dowland,  Henry Purcell  ... 
    Performer:  Crispian Steele-Perkins,  Gérard Lesne,  Susan Graham,  Christopher Robson  ... 
    Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury,  Richard Hickox,  Andrew Parrott,  Emmanuelle Haïm  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork,  Taverner Players,  Orlando Gibbons Viol Ensemble  ... 
    CD: $11.99
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  • 11.
    Baroque Collection / Neville Marriner, ASMF
    Label: Philips Baroque Classics   Catalog: 422488 Release Date: 05/13/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henry Purcell,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Jean-Philippe Rameau,  Antonio Vivaldi  ... 
    Performer:  John Wilbraham,  Don Smithers
    Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
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  • 12.
    Organ Majestic!
    Label: Priory Records   Catalog: 5034 Release Date: 05/11/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Tylman Susato,  Guy Morançon,  Henry Purcell,  Felix Mendelssohn  ... 
    Performer:  Rupert Gough
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  • 13.
    Essential Baroque
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 95429 Release Date: 02/23/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Antonio Vivaldi,  Johann Pachelbel,  George Frideric Handel,  Tomaso Albinoni  ... 
    Performer:  Yehudi Menuhin,  Gerald Finley,  George Malcolm,  William Bennett  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner,  Sir Charles Mackerras,  Stephen Cleobury,  Yehudi Menuhin  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Camerata Lysy,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  Early Music Consort of London  ... 
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  • 14.
    Holst: The Planets;  Britten: Young Person's Guide, Etc
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 64300 Release Date: 12/29/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Gustav Holst,  Henry Purcell,  Benjamin Britten
    Conductor:  Sir Andrew Davis,  Andrew Parrott,  Sir Neville Marriner
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Toronto Symphony Orchestra,  Taverner Players,  Minnesota Orchestra
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  • 15.
    England My England - Music From Original Soundtrack
    Label: Voiceprint   Catalog: 1572 Release Date: 09/29/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henry Purcell
    Performer:  David Blackadder,  Michael Chance,  James Bowman,  Jennifer Smith  ... 
    Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Baroque Soloists
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  • 16.
    Classical Prep School - Essential Music
    Label: Telarc   Catalog: 80749 Release Date: 08/11/2009   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Felix Mendelssohn,  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Richard Wagner,  Edvard Grieg  ... 
    Performer:  John O'Conor,  James Van Demark,  Rudolf Serkin,  Michael Chertock  ... 
    Conductor:  Michael Bishop,  Yoel Levi,  Erich Kunzel,  Lorin Maazel  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Atlanta Symphony Orchestra,  Cincinnati Pops,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $24.99
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  • 17.
    Purcell Edition, Vol. 2: The Indian Queen; The Tempest; Dioclesian; Timon Of Athens
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 4691990 Release Date: 04/13/2009   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Henry Purcell
    Performer:  Rosemary Hardy,  Roderick Earle,  Carol Hall,  David Thomas  ... 
    Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Baroque Soloists,  Monteverdi Choir,  Monteverdi Orchestra
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  • 18.
    The Best Of Baroque
    Label: Virgin Classics   Catalog: 22104 Release Date: 09/02/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel,  Tomaso Albinoni,  Giovanni Battista Pergolesi,  Gregorio Allegri  ... 
    Performer:  Gérard Lesne,  Véronique Gens,  Lorenzo Cavasanti,  Mark Bennett  ... 
    Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury,  Jonathan Rees,  Andrew Parrott,  Fabio Biondi  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of Ancient Music,  Cambridge King's College Choir,  Scottish Ensemble  ... 
    CD: $7.99
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  • 19.
    Baroque 8 - Purcell: Theatre Music / Menuhin, Barbirolli, De Los Angeles, Harper
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 65341 Release Date: 10/31/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henry Purcell
    Performer:  Colin Tilney,  Victoria de los Angeles,  Heather Harper,  Joan Carlyle
    Conductor:  Yehudi Menuhin,  Sir John Barbirolli
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bath Festival Orchestra,  Ambrosian Singers,  English Chamber Orchestra
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  • 20.
    The Classics - A Baroque Festival / Parrott, Et Al
    Label: Virgin Classics   Catalog: 91340 Release Date: 07/17/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Henry Purcell,  George Frideric Handel,  Johann Pachelbel
    Performer:  Jennifer Ward-Clarke,  Richard Campbell,  Mark Caudle,  Catherine Latham  ... 
    Conductor:  Andrew Parrott
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Taverner Players,  Taverner Consort
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  • 21.
    High, Bright, Light & Clear / Canadian Brass
    Label: Rca Victor Red Seal   Catalog: 14574 Release Date: 07/09/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henry Purcell,  Samuel Scheidt,  Jeremiah Clarke,  Gottfried Reiche  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Canadian Brass
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  • 22.
    Sweeter Than Roses - Best Of Purcell
    Label: Eloquence   Catalog: 467454 Release Date: 06/12/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henry Purcell
    Conductor:  Christopher Hogwood
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Christopher Hogwood
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  • 23.
    Label: Saydisc   Catalog: 341 Release Date: 04/24/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  W. J. G. Bates,  Anonymous,  George Frideric Handel,  Traditional  ... 
    Performer:  Raymond Aldington,  Adrian Gebruers,  Ronald Leith
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  • 24.
    Organ Spectacular From St. Paul's Cathedral / Huw Williams
    Label: Guild   Catalog: 7304 Release Date: 01/02/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Michael Praetorius,  Théodore Dubois,  Charles-Marie Widor,  Jeremiah Clarke  ... 
    Performer:  Huw Williams
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  • 25.
    Burnished Bright - Brass, Organ, Bells / Chalmers, Et Al
    Label: Gloriae Dei Cantores   Catalog: 40 Release Date: 09/05/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Craig Phillips,  Daniel Pinkham,  Andrew Haig,  Michael J. Hale  ... 
    Performer:  David Chalmers
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabriel V Brass Quintet
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