Purcell (1659 - 1695)
: September 10, 1659, London, England
: November 21, 1695, London, England
Henry Purcell was an English composer and whilst incorporating Italian and French stylistic elements into his compositions, Purcell's legacy was a uniquely English form of Baroque music. He is generally considered to be one of the greatest English composers; no other native-born English composer approached his fame until Edward Elgar.
In his childhood, Purcell was brought up by his uncle, Thomas Purcell, after his father’s death. Both the elder Purcells were important musicians and members of the Chapel Royal, the institution where Henry was trained and later employed for the rest of his life. Purcell’s brother Daniel, as well as his son and grandson, served in similar positions.
In 1673, Purcell was appointed as Assistant to John Higeston, keeper of the King’s instruments. Purcell kept this position, which involved tuning keyboard instruments and looking after other ones, throughout his life. In 1679, Purcell also became organist at Westminster Abbey.
Purcell composed odes, anthems, and secular songs for the court and Westminster Abbey until the late 1680s. During the chaotic reign of James II, Purcell turned to the theatre, for which he produces his most famous works: The Fairy Queen, King Arthur, and Dido and Aeneas.
In the 1680s-90s, Purcell was much in demand as a teacher, and in 1695 Purcell provided music for Queen Mary’s funeral. A short time later, the same music was used for his own funeral.