10 September 1659 - 21 November 1695 (Age 36)

Henry Purcell was the first English composer of comparable stature to the European composers of the Baroque era. Tragically his productive life was cut short at the early age of 36.





portrait  of Purcell


Father: Henry Purcell Senior. Gentleman of the Chapel Royal.
Mother:  Elizabeth Purcell
Siblings: Edward and Daniel (also a composer)
Wife: Frances Peters
Children: 6. The first four died in infancy. A son and a daughter outlived him.

Buried in Westminster Abbey next to the organ.

Various theories of cause of death eg:
- chocolate poisoning
- caught cold through being locked out by his wife one night
- tuberculosis (the most probable theory).


Style/period: Baroque
Output: considerable
Genres: chamber music, keyboard solos, stage works, overtures, songs, anthems
Best known works:
- Dido and Aeneas
- King Arthur
- The Fairy-Queen
- The Rondo from Abdelazer (the tune used by Benjamin Britten in his Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra)
He composed a large number of songs or "anthems"
- The Libertine
- The Indian Queen
- "Hail Bright Cecilia!"
- "Fantasy upon one Note"
- famous Ode for Queen Mary: Come, Ye Sons of Art,
music for court, church and theatre
- Te Deum and Jubilate

Dido and Aeneas (Dido's lament)


- "As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry."

- "Poetry and painting have arrived to their perfection in our own country; music is yet but in its nonage, a forward child, which gives hope of what it may be hereafter in England, when the masters of it shall find more encouragement."

Music For The Funeral Of Queen Mary - March

Jubilate Deo in D major
The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge

This was used by Benjamin Britten in his 'Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra'

The Fairy Queen -"Now the night is chas'd away" (masque VI)
ENO - English National Opera

Sound the Trumpet 
Alison Balsom

Links - and where to go for more information

British Library

The Purcell Society

Google Books - Purcell by Simon Mundy

BBC - Composer of the Year


More Baroque composers

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