Performing the Music of Henry Purcell

Performing the Music of Henry Purcell

Performing the Music of Henry Purcell

Performing the Music of Henry Purcell

Synopsis

As Nicholas Kenyon says, quoting Ralph Vaughan Williams in the introduction to this volume, 'We all pay lip service to Henry Purcell, but what do we really know of him?'. Many aspects of the composer's life remain obscure, but, with the approach of the tercentenary of Henry Purcell's death in 1995, much of his music would be performed again, in some cases for the first time for many years. It was clear that many issues of performance practice needed to be aired before 1995; further it was equally clear that such discussion should begin early and should be available in published form. To this end, a group of scholars and performers gathered at Exeter College, Oxford in 1993 and the contents of this volume represents some of the fruits of their deliberation. The first part of the book considers purely musical issues, and covers a wide range of topics. Peter Holman looks at the importance of the Oxford set parts for Restoration Concerted Music in the overall picture of orchestral practice in the seventeenth century. This is followed by two organological essays, one on organs (Dominic Gwynne) and the other on violins (John Dilworth). The remainder of this first section has three studies of historical performance - on Percell's "Exotic" trumpet notes (Peter Downey), on Queen Mary's Funeral Music (Bruce Wood), and ornamenting Purcell's keyboard music (H Diack Johnson) - and two concerning singers and singing - Purcell's stage singers (Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson) and on voice ranges, voice types and pitch (Timothy Morris). The second part of the book, devoted to the stage works, opens with an examination of past performances of the dramatic operas in Michael Burden's essay, 'Percell debauch'd'. Contributors then examine the importance of allegory in performing stage works (Andrew Walkling), theatrical dance (Richard Semmens), costume and etiquette (Ruth Eva Ronen), stage music (Roger Savage), and aspects of performing Dioclesian (Julia and Frans Muller) and King Arthur (Lionel Sawkins).

Excerpt

The contents of the present volume have, for the most part, their origins in papers given at a conference also titled 'Perforrming the Music of Henry Purcell', held in Exeter College, Oxford, in 1993. However, the conference was unusual in that it was the idea of a collection of essays on the performance of Purcell's music that produced the conference, rather than the conference that produced the collection of essays. the conference speakers were largely invited in an effort to cover as many aspects of the topic as possible, although not all the papers have been included here, and several papers have been added to the collection. However, the book remains a volume of papers, and does not pretend to be a comprehensive guide to all aspects of relevant performance practice. the foresight of Bruce Phillips, commissioning editor of music books at Oxford University Press, is responsible for the book's appearance in the year of Purcell's tercentenary, and his patience in dealing with an editor working with a large number of contributors -- the difficulties here can scarcely be exaggerated -- has been exemplary.

The conference received generous financial support and assistance from the University of Oxford and Brasenose College through the Hulme Fund, the Warden and Fellows of New College, the Early Music Centre, and the respective universities and academic institutions of those giving the papers. the New Chamber Opera, through the receipt of an Arts Council Grant, was able to give a series of four concerts during the conference, while the bbc recorded for later broadcast a concert by the Parley of Instruments. My thanks are due to Alison De Lavis, Emma Dillon, Graham Dixon, Edward Higginbottom, Harvey McGregor, Nicholas Kenyon, Timothy Morris, Christopher Morrongiello, David Palfreyman, and Paul Plummer, and the staffs of Exeter and New Colleges. Andrew Pinnock was my partner on the conference itself, and his constant support and advice have been invaluable.

It is a great sadness to record the untimely deaths of two influential figures in the early music world who were associated with the conference. Fred Martin, administrator of the Early Music Centre, who was killed in a road accident shortly before the conference began, had calmly guided our early discussions; and Christopher Kite, Chairman of the Council of the Early Music Centre, Head of Music Studies at the Guildhall, and a former member of New . . .

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