Henry Purcell, classical music composer

Henry Purcell

Biography

Henry Purcell was born in Westminster in 1659. The second of three sons, Henry came from a musical family. His father was a gentleman of the Chapel Royal and his younger brother, Daniel, also became a prolific composer. After the death of his father in 1664, Purcell was placed under the guardianship of his uncle Thomas. As a gentleman of His Majesty's chapel, Thomas arranged for Purcell to be admitted as a choirister at the Chapel Royal. This was extremely advantageous to Purcell's development as a musician. During this time, he studied under Henry Cooke and Pelham Humfrey. After he was no longer able to serve as a choirister, he became an assistant to the organ-builder John Hingston in 1673. The following year, after the death of Humfrey, he continued his studies under Dr. John Blow. In 1679, Blow resigned his position as organist of Westminster Abbey, leaving it to his pupil Purcell.

It is said that Purcell was composing music as early as the age of nine. Despite, thorough scholarship, this claim has yet to be proven. The earliest known work by Purcell dates from 1670. However, it was not until around 1679 that Purcell began to compose his most important works. In the early part of that year he composed music for Nathaniel Lee's Theodosius and Thomas d'Urfey's Virtuous Wife. Some years later, he composed one of his most well-known works—the opera Dido and Aeneas. Documented to have been first performed in 1689, it is possible that it was composed much earlier. Nevertheless, Dido and Aeneas was influential in the history of English dramatic music and, alongside Blow's Venus and Adonis, is considered one of the earliest examples of true English opera.

Though he at first focused mainly on the composition of sacred music, Purcell eventually turned more towards the composition of theatre music. In 1691, he composed King Arthur, often considered to be his dramatic masterpiece, and The Fairy-Queen followed in 1692. In 1693, he produced a setting of the Te Deum, the first in English to make use of orchestral accompaniment. Purcell's Te Deum was regularly performed on St. Cecilia's Day until 1712.

Unfortunately, Purcell died at the height of his creative powers in 1695. However, in his relatively short lifetime, he produced a large collection of sacred and secular music and became and influential composer of the English Baroque period.


Composer Title Date Action
Henry Purcell Vouchsafe, O Lord from Te Deum Laudamus 01/10/2009 Play Add to playlist
Henry Purcell I attempt from Love’s sickness to fly 01/27/2009 Play Add to playlist
Henry Purcell Music for a while 01/11/2009 Play Add to playlist
Henry Purcell What can we poor females do? 02/03/2010 Play Add to playlist
Henry Purcell If music be the food of love 02/03/2010 Play Add to playlist
Henry Purcell Fairest Isle 02/03/2010 Play Add to playlist
Henry Purcell Love thou art best 02/03/2010 Play Add to playlist
Henry Purcell Suite from Abdelazer 09/24/2010 Play Add to playlist
Henry Purcell Suite from Dido and Aeneas 10/02/2010 Play Add to playlist
Henry Purcell The Double Dealer 10/06/2010 Play Add to playlist
Henry Purcell From “The Fairy Queen”: If love ‘s a sweet passion 03/31/2012 Play Add to playlist
Henry Purcell Suite in No.2 in G minor, Z. 661 12/06/2012 Play Add to playlist
Henry Purcell When I am laid in earth, from Dido and Aeneas 09/09/2013 Play Add to playlist
Henry Purcell Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary 09/09/2013 Play Add to playlist