Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
1: "WELCOME TO ALL THE PLEASURES'|
(Ode for St. Cecilia's Day, 1683)
Alfred Deller, Counter-tenor / April Cantelo, Eileen McLoughlin, Sopranos / Gerald English, Tenor / Owen Grundy, Baritone / Maurice Bevan, Bass / The Deller Consort / Kalmar Orchestra of London
2: Fantasia Upon a Ground in d minor for Three Violins & Continuo (Z. 731)
3: "REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAY" (The Bell Anthem)
4: Fantasia upon One Note in F for Five Viols (Z. 745, c. 1680)
5: "MY BELOVED SPAKE"
6: Pavan in g minor for Three Violins and Bass Viol (Z. 752, c. 1680)
7: "COME YE SONS OF ART"
Total Time: 79:25
Henry Purcell reacted to and reflected politics and political history perhaps more than any other baroque composer. In 1649 the running battle between Parliament and Monarchy for legislative supremacy had come to a head, resulting in the public execution of King Charles I. For ten years thereafter the country suffered under Cromwell's military republic and near-dictatorship. Purcell was born in 1659, the year before George Monck restored parliament and the monarchy under Charles II. With the Restoration and renewal of musical activities both in and out of Court, music was to flourish again, and Purcell was able to participate to the full in this period of renewed growth. As the son of a musician at Court, a chorister at the Chapel Royal, and the holder of continuing royal appointments until his death, Purcell worked in Westminster for three different Kings over twenty-five years.
Rejoice in the Lord Alway, also known as The Bell Anthem for its downward peals of bells, was composed in the early 1680's and reflects the taste of Charles II who "ordered the composers of his chapel to add symphonies, etc. with instruments to their Anthems."
Also composed in the early 1680's was the anthem, My Beloved Spake, which is a setting of verses from the Song of Solomon (ii, 10-13, 16). This quiet yet beautiful work is almost program-music, in that the music reflects the short verses of the text - making it important for the listener to follow the text during performance.
In addition to his royal duties Purcell also devoted much of his talent to writing operas, or rather musical dramas, and incidental stage music. He also became involved with the growing London public concert scene. In 1683 a group of gentlemen amateurs and professional musicians started a "Musical Society" in London to celebrate the "Festival of St. Cecilia, a great patroness of music" - a Festival which any music-lover so desirous may still celebrate yearly on November 22nd. They asked Henry Purcell, then only 24, to be the first to write an Ode for their festivals; it is this Ode, Welcome to All the Pleasures, which opens our program. Purcell was to compose two more such Odes for the Society.
Meanwhile at Court the situation was not quite as stable as England's good citizens had hoped. King Charles II had indeed the sense to acknowledge the new position of the monarchy and acquiesce to the wishes of Parliament. However, he died in 1685 and his brother James II who succeeded him once again opposed Parliament. In 1688 Parliament invited James' daughter Mary and her Dutch husband William of Orange to land in England and save the country's liberties. This was the true Restoration; here was a much-loved and respected queen, ruling (unusually for England) jointly with her husband William, acknowledging the religion and the constitutional traditions of her country, a queen who would bring true peace and stability to England once again.
Starting in 1689 and reflecting England's love of their Queen Mary, Purcell had written a birthday ode for her each year. Come Ye Sons of Art, is one of the most beautiful examples of Purcell's art at its most mature. Performed on April 30, 1694, it was the greatest, and sadly, the last of the series. The following year Purcell composed funeral music for the Queen, and soon after Purcell himself died at the age of only 36.
To provide variety, and indeed some relief between the powerful choral works on our disc, we have interspersed some of Purcell's sets of fantasies in three and four parts (1680). These are believed to be the last of their kind composed in England, and they are certainly among the finest. They are full of ingenuity and contrapuntal skill, utilizing all the devices known to the learned music of their day.
It is hardly necessary to add that throughout this splendid disc the art and mastery of Alfred Deller, arguably the world's greatest counter-tenor and renowned performer of Purcell and his period, reigns supreme!