Purcell; A Biography

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Henry Purcell (1659-1695) is the greatest of all English composers and a pivotal figure in European musical history. In this rich and colorful biography, Jonathan Keates deftly traces Purcell's life and artistry against the backdrop of the turbulent political, religious, theatrical, and social movements of his time. Purcell's musical genius both embraced and transcended the variable moods and tensions of Restoration England, and gave the period and the culture an unforgettable voice. With great skill and ...
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Overview

Henry Purcell (1659-1695) is the greatest of all English composers and a pivotal figure in European musical history. In this rich and colorful biography, Jonathan Keates deftly traces Purcell's life and artistry against the backdrop of the turbulent political, religious, theatrical, and social movements of his time. Purcell's musical genius both embraced and transcended the variable moods and tensions of Restoration England, and gave the period and the culture an unforgettable voice. With great skill and historical understanding, Keates follows Purcell through his extraordinarily prolific career, from chorister at the Chapel Royal, to composer for the theater and the court, to writer of sacred music, chamber music, and the triumphant Dido and Aeneas, the first British opera. Keates considers Purcell's musical studies with Pelham Humfrey and John Blow as well as his adaptation of Matthew Locke's innovative and colorful style. He provides a superb critical appreciation of Purcell's music in all its forms. Keates also discusses the musical history of the period, including the influence of French and Italian composers, whose music blended with and modified native traditions.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ever since the tercentenary of Purcell's birth, in 1959, there has been growing attention by scholars, biographers and musicians to the remarkable body of work of the "English Orpheus," and this latest biographythe second to appear this yearis a worthy addition to Purcellian scholarship. Keates, a fiction writer (like Maureen Duffy before him) as well as a musical biographer, suffers from the same meagerness of primary sources as other would-be Purcell biographers ("A true biography," he says, "is impossible to fashion"); there are very few documents, other than the manuscripts; sketchy records; and almost no anecdotal material. Still, he has made excellent use of his own enthusiasm for Purcell's music to kindle interest even in more out-of-the-way pieces; his detailed treatment of much of the music is the best so far in a popular study. He is intelligent also on the complex religio-political history of the time, and casts a knowing eye on the French and Italian influences on Baroque music, influences that Purcell thoroughly absorbed into a distinctive English style that has inspired native composers ever since. Illustrations, and a helpful index to works discussed in the text. (Oct.)
Library Journal
The past three years have seen a veritable flood of tercentennial monographs on the life and works of Henry Purcell, England's preeminent 17th-century composer. Like Maureen Duffy's excellent biography (Henry Purcell, LJ 6/15/96), Keates's work is a marvel of insightful research and witty, elegant prose. The author is no stranger to British baroque music; his biography of George Frederick Handel (Handel: the Man & His Music, Trafalgar Square, 1993) is widely respected for its scholarly authority. In the present volume, Keates, with far fewer hard facts at his disposal, is nonetheless able to conjure up a vivid picture of Purcell's life and achievements amid the turbulent political and musical spheres of the English Restoration. No musical examples are provided, but Keates helpfully points the reader toward recent analytical studies. An excellent, thorough index of Purcell's works is included, in addition to the general index. This is another fine addition to the welcome wave of Purcellania. Smaller music collections that passed on Duffy's work would do well to buy this volume; larger collections should consider both works.-Larry A. Lipkis, Moravian Coll., Bethlehem, Pa.
Booknews
A biography of the Baroque composer following Purcell's career from chorister at the Chapel Royal, to theater and court composer, and through his period as a writer of sacred and chamber music. Although set against the political, religious, and theatrical moods of the Restoration, the biography roots itself in the music itself emphasizing Purcell's influences and innovations which modified French, Italian, and native traditions. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780701146931
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus
  • Publication date: 6/1/1996
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 1.18 (d)

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