Henry Purcell (1659-1695): How Happy the Lovers

This chorus is from Act IV the semi-opera King Arthur, or The British Worthy (1691) the libretto was by John Dryden. It’s a wonderfully sensual and rich piece of  music into which Purcell wove tutti, solos, male and female voices, and duets. It’s very French you can hear that Lully’s Passacaille d’Armide impressed Purcell. During…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): O dive custos Auriacae

Purcell setting of Henry Parker’s poem O dive custos Auriacae domus ‘An elegy upon the death of Queen Mary’ is a stunning piece of music. The poem’s calls upon the Isis and the Cam (the Oxbridge rivers) to weep for their deceased Queen. It’s in the form of a duet and is a wonderful example…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Chacony in G minor Z730

The Chacony in G minor is one of Purcell’s best known pieces. It dates from sometime around 1680 – which means he’d have been all of  21 when he composed it. It’s based on a freely varied descending tetrachord which technically makes it a passacaglia rather than a chaconne (‘chacony’ is just an anglicisation of…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Turn thou us, O good Lord

I’m including Turn thou us, O good Lord (Z62) more for the sake of completeness than anything else as I’m far from sure that the work is indeed by Purcell. It’s found in the first volume of the Flackton collection 1  and was noted by Flackton as follows: The 3.d Collect for the 30 of…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): O praise the Lord, all ye heathen

We don’t know exactly when Purcell composed this short verse anthem but it must have been before December 1681 because it’s one of the anthems copied out in the York ‘Gostling’ partbooks by Stephen Bing and Bing died during the month of December 1681. It’s quite an Italianate piece written for two tenors with minimal…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): O consider my adversity Z32

Purcell seems to have composed the verse anthem ‘O consider my adversity (Z32)‘ relatively late in his career. It takes its text from eight verses of Psalm 119 setting them mostly for solo trio. It’s a surprisingly large-scale work that Purcell starts by having each voice sing the opening phrase over a descending continuo line…