Henry Purcell


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

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Browse 1-25 of 32 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Purcell: England, My England - Monteverdi: Balli, e balletti / Gardiner, Monteverdi Choir
    Label: Erato   Catalog: 554474 Release Date: 03/18/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claudio Monteverdi,  Henry Purcell
    Performer:  David Blackadder,  Michael Chance,  James Bowman,  Lynne Dawson  ... 
    Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Monteverdi Choir,  English Baroque Soloists
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  • 2.
    Purcell's Revenge: Sweeter Than Roses?
    Label: Delphian   Catalog: 34161 Release Date: 03/10/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henry Purcell,  Olivia Chaney,  Ana Silvera
    Conductor:  David McGuinness
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto Caledonia
    CD: $19.99
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  • 3.
    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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  • 4.
    Purcell: Music For Pleasure And Devotion
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 352982 Release Date: 02/12/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henry Purcell
    Performer:  Andrew Parrott,  Emily van Evera,  Simon [Bass Vocal] Grant,  David Miller  ... 
    Conductor:  Andrew Parrott
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Taverner Consort,  Taverner Players
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  • 5.
    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 Zukerman  ... 
    Conductor:  Jordi Savall,  Daniel Barenboim,  Fabio Biondi
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Taverner Players,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  Nash Ensemble  ... 
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  • 6.
    The Baroque Collection
    Label: Warner 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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    CD: $46.99
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  • 7.
    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 Banchini,  Janet See,  Andrew Lawrence-King  ... 
    Conductor:  Emmanuelle Haďm,  Roger Norrington,  Andrew Parrott,  Richard Hickox  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Taverner Players,  Taverner Consort,  Concerto Cologne  ... 
    CD: $18.99
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  • 8.
    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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  • 9.
    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
    CD: $24.99
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  • 10.
    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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  • 11.
    50 Best Baroque
    Label: Warner 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 Haďm  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork,  Taverner Players,  Orlando Gibbons Viol Ensemble  ... 
    CD: $11.99
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  • 12.
    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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  • 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,  William Bennett,  George Malcolm  ... 
    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
    CD: $29.99
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  • 18.
    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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  • 19.
    High, Bright, Light & Clear / Canadian Brass
    Label: Rca Victor Red Seal   Catalog: 14574 Release Date: 06/27/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henry Purcell,  Samuel Scheidt,  Jeremiah Clarke,  Gottfried Reiche  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Canadian Brass
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  • 20.
    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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  • 21.
    Burnished Bright: Music for Brass, Organ & Bells
    Label: Paraclete Recordings   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
    On sale! $19.98
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  • 22.
    Jewels Of The Baroque Era
    Label: Analekta   Catalog: 29782 Release Date: 11/15/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Alessandro Scarlatti,  Georg Philipp Telemann,  Marc-Antoine Charpentier,  Henry Purcell  ... 
    Performer:  Matthew White,  Angčle Dubeau,  Shannon Mercer,  Sergei Istomin  ... 
    Conductor:  Jeanne Lamon,  Christopher Jackson,  Olivier Fortin,  James Fankhauser  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tafelmusik,  Montreal Ancient Music Studio,  Masques  ... 
    CD: $17.99
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  • 23.
    Baroque Music For Brass And Organ / Kuhlman, Empire Brass
    Label: Telarc   Catalog: 80614 Release Date: 06/24/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  André Campra,  Henry Purcell,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Jeremiah Clarke  ... 
    Performer:  William Kuhlman
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Empire Brass
    CD: $16.99
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  • 24.
    Baroque Masterpieces - Pachelbel, Albinoni, Bach, Et Al
    Label: Sony Classical Essential Classics   Catalog: 89847 Release Date: 01/29/2002   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Pachelbel,  Jean Joseph Mouret,  Tomaso Albinoni,  Christoph W. Gluck  ... 
    Performer:  Gerard Schwarz,  Gilbert Johnson,  Edward Carroll,  E. Power Biggs  ... 
    Conductor:  Raymond Leppard,  Richard Kapp,  Jean-Claude Malgoire,  Eugene Ormandy  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Philharmonia Virtuosi,  La Grande Ecurie et la Chambre du Roy  ... 
    CD: $6.99
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  • 25.
    Processional & Reflective Music For Weddings /Offstage Brass
    Label: Guild   Catalog: 7218 Release Date: 02/27/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Stanley,  Alistair King,  Gabriel Fauré,  William Byrd  ... 
    Conductor:  Tim Hawes
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra Off-Stage Brass
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