Henry Purcell

(1659-95)

Henry Purcell (1659-95)

Purcell is often named as the most significant British-born composer until Elgar, and it's not hard to see why. Synthesising various elements from the different Baroque traditions that existed around Europe in his day, he forged his own unique, instantly recognisable style of composition and produced numerous works that have remained firm favourites to this day; his Rondeau (a fairly unassuming tune from the incidental music he wrote to Aphra Behn's play Abdelazer) has been further popularised by its adoption as the theme of Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.

During his fairly brief life, he was a prominent figure in the nation's musical life and composed for the monarchs of his time. He wrote much church music, and his anthems (such as Hear my Prayer, O Lord and the Funeral Sentences for Queen Mary - also used at Purcell's own funeral) have a particular place in English sacred music. He also wrote stage works, of which the best known are King Arthur and Dido and Aeneas. He lies buried in Westminster Abbey where he had been organist.


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