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Henry Purcell has long been acknowledged as one of England’s greatest composers. Little is known about his life beyond his official appointments and their duties, but as a musician he excelled as a servant of the Court, the Church and the theatre, writing odes, welcome songs, sonatas, anthems, service music and incidental music, and a series of operatic extravaganzas which fascinated the public during the 1690s.
The Purcell Companion opens with four background chapters – by Andrew Pinnock, Jonathan Wainwright, Graham Dixon and Michael Burden – on his position in British musical history, on music in London during his lifetime, on his Italian connections and on his contemporaries. In the section on the music, Eric Van Tassel presents a new view of the church music, Bruce Wood re-assesses the odes, and Peter Holman writes perceptively about the instrumental music. On the theatre works, Edward Langhans considers their context, while Roger Savage studies the music for the operas and plays. Finally Andrew Parrott deals with aspects of performance, and the volume closes with a revision of Savage’s classic essay on producing Purcell’s ever-popular opera Dido and Aeneas. A bibliography details research undertaken on various aspects of Purcell’s life and career.
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