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): Who hath believed our report?

The text to this anthem is from the Book of Isaiah and if you think you’ve heard it very recently you probably have –  sixty years after Purcell wrote this setting Handel set much of the same text for the second part of Messiah. The autograph manuscript for Purcell’s setting is to be found in…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): My heart is fixed, O God

This wonderful verse anthem is one of my favourites I find it’s cheerful expansiveness simply irresistible while its joyful text from Psalm 57 is a great tonic to the Anglican angst in which Purcell all too frequently indulges himself. The source is the ‘Royal Music’ manuscript which dates it to the three year period 1682-85…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): O Lord God of hosts

Purcell only ever wrote three anthems scored for eight-part choir of which ‘O Lord God of hosts’ (Z37) is one. It’s an early work which wrote by 1681 at the latest and it’s more likely that he wrote it a year earlier. The text is from Psalm 80 and Purcell who loved nothing more than…