I - Sonatas and chamber music

 

Trumpet Sonata in D

        Pomposo - Adagio – Presto

Sonata of Four Parts No.5 in G minor

        [Andante] – Canzona – Largo – Adagio – Presto – Allegro – Adagio

Chaconne: Two-in-one upon a Ground (from Dioclesian)

Fantasia No.7 in C minor

Sonata of Four Parts No.6 in G minor

Fantasia No. 11 in G major

Sonata in Three Parts No. 8 in G major

        Andante Moderato - Poco Largo - Allegro - Grave - Vivace

Prelude in D minor

Three-in-one upon a Ground

Sonata in Three Parts No. 9 in C minor

        Adagio - Largo - Canzona – Allegro

Chacony in G minor

 

Cambridge University Baroque Ensemble:

Helen Roche and Ryan Mark (violins), Gillian Hunter (viola), Kate Conway (cello), Jeremy Coleman (harpsichord), Katie McClaughry (baroque trumpet), Roses Leech-Wilkinson, Jasmine Bennett and Simon Brown (recorders)

 

Purcell's chamber music dates mostly from early in his career; in particular, the two sets of Sonatas of Three Parts and Sonatas of Four Parts (c.1680) are both a statement about musical fashions, and a calling-card for the young composer (as sets of trio sonatas were to remain in Italy well into the 18th century). The composer's preface specifically cites the influence of that country: a just imitation of the most fam'd Italian Masters; principally, to bring the seriousness and gravity of that sorth of Musick into vogue, and reputation  among our Country-men, whose humor, 'tis time now, should begin to  loath the levity, and balladry of our neighbours. Curiously, despite the different titles of the sets, both are scored for two violins and continuo, the 'fourth part' being the cello, which sometimes offers variations on the simpler keyboard line.

At about the same time, Purcell was looking backward with a remarkable set of viol fantasias in three to seven parts, which in many ways are the summation of a long pre-Civil War chamber music tradition. These are complex, harmonically-rich works in which the composer seems to be setting himself specific contrapuntal problems to solve.

The Ground, or variations on a repeated bass line, was a key part of 17th-century music across Europe, offering as it did the challenge of exploring a relatively restricted harmonic palette. Purcell's skill in this was legendary, and this programme includes three fine examples: the sixth Sonata of Four Parts, the duo from Dioclesian for recorders, and the remarkable Three-in-one upon a Ground, which incorporates the additional restriction of a canon! This exists in two versions: one in D for three violins and continuo, and another in F for three recorders—evidently a favourite instrument of Purcell’s.

Of the remaining works, the solo recorder Prelude is a short example of what would later become an ‘etude’; the four-part Chacony in G minor has been popular with string orchestras and quartets for many years, due to its intense minor-key character; while the three-movement Trumpet Sonata is a proto-concerto with a brilliant solo part. The second movement is for strings alone, as it ventures into keys that the natural trumpet, which was restricted to the notes of the harmonic series, could not follow.

 

II - Keyboard Music

 

Henry Purcell (1658/9 – 1695) - Suite No. 2 in G minor (from A Choice Collection of Lessons for the Harpsichord or Spinnet, 1696)

        Prelude, [Almand], Corant, Saraband

John Blow (1649-1708) - Suite No. 1 in D Minor (from A Choice Collection of Lessons for the Harpsicord, Spinnet, &c., 1698)

       Alman,  [Corant], Tune, Jigg

Purcell - Chacone (1696)

Purcell - Suite No. 3 in G (1696)

        Prelude, Almand, Courante

Blow - Chacone in Fa ut

Purcell - Suite No. 5 in C  (1696)

        Prelude, Almand, Corant, Saraband

Purcell - Ground in C minor

Blow - Suite No. 3 in A minor (1698)

        Almand, Corant, Saraband, Jig

Purcell - Suite No. 8 in F

        Prelude, Almand, Courante, Minuet

Blow- Ground (from John Blow’s Anthology)

 

Sean Heath (harpsichord and spinet)

 

Despite Purcell having spent his entire career as an organist, he left almost no music for his instrument - unless it has disappeared in manuscript. His domestic keyboard music, intended for recreation and teaching purposes, has fared slightly better, with the posthumous publication of Purcell’s rather French-sounding suites in 1696, and several dozen short dances and movements extant from other sources. To judge by the ‘Purcell manuscript’ that unexpectedly surfaced a few years ago, the composer may have regarded such pieces as teaching material, and we can almost see him scribbling short pieces into this pupil’s manuscript collection to illustrate a particular point or fingering.

The keyboard instruments available in late-seventeenth century Britain were harpsichord, spinet and clavichord, and we can trace in Pepy’s diary the changing fashions for such instruments. The virginals of the Tudor period - a rectagular instrument with single strings - was in the process of being replaced by the spinet (or ’triangle’ as Pepys called it, for obvious reasons); this was similar in size but fitted in more strings. The more expensive harpsichord was less common except in wealthy households, and the quiet clavichord was a comparative rarity.

 

III - Music for the Theatre

 

Fairest Isle (from King Arthur)

Sir Anthony Love

        Overture, Pursuing beauty, Ground, In vain Clemene

Music for a while (from Oedipus)

Bonduca

        Overture, O lead me to some peaceful gloom, Dance

Dido's Lament (from Dido and Aeneas)

Abdelazar (with dramatized narration)

            Overture, Rondeau, Air, Air, Minuet, Air, Jig, Hornpipe, Air, Lucinda is bewitching fair

 

Fitzwilliam College Baroque Ensemble:

Natasha Lee and James Richardson (violins), Hannah Partridge (viola), Lotte Johnson (cello), Francis Knights (harpsichord), with Isabella Gage (soprano)

FitzTheatre:

Dave Harrap (narrator), Jenny Harris and John Winterburn (actors)

 

King Arthur, or The British Worthy (1691) is a very substantial semi-opera with a text by Dryden, mixing spoken dialogue and music on a patriotic theme - King Arthur's battles against the Saxon King Oswald. ‘Fairest Isle’ is sung by Venus at the end of Act 4; the ‘isle’ referred to is in fact Venus' birthplace, Cyprus.

The incidental music to Thomas Southerne’s comedy Sir Anthony Love, or The Rambling Lady dates from 1692, and consists of an overture, prelude, two songs, a duet and a ground for solo violin. There are several curiosities in the scoring which make one wonder as to the original form of the music: the viola only plays in the overture, and an oboe obligato is cued in for just four bars! ‘Pursuing Beauty’ must be one of Purcell’s finest unknown songs.

‘Music for a while’, one of Purcell’s best-known songs, was written for John Dryden and Nathaniel Lee's drama Oedipus. In the play, Tiresias, a blind seer, and two priests summon the ghost of King Laius to discover the identity of his murderer. The first priest tries to conjure Laius by singing ‘Music for a while’.

The music to Bonduca, or The British Heroine by John Fletcher dates from the last year of Purcell’s life, and the fifteen movements comprising the original score may not represent the composer’s own version - six of the dances are likely not authentic, and there are two movements missing. The plot tells the story of Boudica, the British Celtic queen who led a revolt against the Romans in 60-61, and includes the well-known lament ‘O lead me to some peaceful gloom’.

Dido and Aeneas is a landmark in the history of English opera, and is almost the first work worthy of that title. The libretto is by Nahum Tate, and the work was first performed in 1689, at a boarding school for young gentlewomen in Chelsea run by the wife of the choreographer from Dorset Garden Theatre. Dido’s moving lament ‘When I am laid in earth’ is one of the finest things Purcell ever wrote.

Abdelazer, or The Moor's Revenge is another work from 1695, and the surviving ten movements are nearly all instrumental; their place in the dramatic narrative is not clear, apart from the insertion song ‘Lucinda is bewitching fair’ which appears to belong to Act 2. The impracticality of staging a full performance of Aphra Behn’s 1676 play (which sets a tragedy in Moorish Spain) in order to experience Purcell’s music mean that we have opted instead for a linking narrative. This will hopefully give the music a dramatic context it normally lacks in concert performance.

 

 

IV - The Fairy Queen

 

1st Music (Prelude and Hornpipe)

2nd Music (Air and Rondeau)

Overture (Grave and Canzona)

        Act 1

Prelude and Aria, ‘Come, come, come, let us leave the town’

Prelude, Aria and Chorus, ‘Fill up the bowl!’

1st Act Tune (Jig)

        Act 2

Prelude and Aria, ‘Come all ye songsters of the sky’

Prelude

Trio, ‘May the god of wit inspire’

Chorus, ‘Now join your warbling voices all’

Aria and Chorus, ‘Sing while we trip it on the green’

A dance of the fairies

Prelude and Aria, ‘See even Night herself is here’

Aria, ‘I am come to lock all fast’

Prelude and Aria, ‘One charming night’

Aria and Chorus, ‘Hush, no more, be silent all’

Dance - A dance for the followers of the night

2nd Act Tune (Air)

        Act 3

Prelude, Aria and Chorus, ‘If love's a sweet passion’

Overture - Symphony while the swans come forward

Dance for the fairies

Dance for the green men

Aria, ‘Ye gentle spirits of the air appear’

Aria, ‘Now the maids and the men’

Aria, ‘When I have often heard’

Dance - A dance of haymakers

Dance - Dance for a clown

Aria and Chorus, ‘A thousand thousand ways we'll find’

3rd Act Tune (Hornpipe)

        Act 4

Symphony - Sonata while the sun rises

Aria and Chorus, ‘Now the night is chas'd away’

Duet, ‘Let the fifes, and the clarions’

Entry of Phoebus

Prelude and Aria, ‘When a cruel long winter’

Chorus, ‘Hail! Great parent of us all’

Prelude and Aria, ‘Thus the ever grateful spring’

Prelude and Aria, ‘Here's the summer, sprightly, gay’

Prelude and Aria, ‘See my many colour'd fields’

Prelude and Aria, ‘Next, winter comes slowly’

Chorus, ‘Hail! Great parent of us all’

4th Act Tune (Air)

        Act 5

Prelude to Juno's song

Aria, ‘Thrice happy lovers’

Aria, ‘O let me weep’

Dance - Entry dance

Symphony

Aria, ‘Thus the gloomy world st first began to shine’

Prelude, Aria and Chorus, ‘Thus happy and free’

Ground and Aria, ‘Yes, Daphne, in your looks I find’

Dance - Monkey's dance

Prelude and Aria, ‘Hark how all things in one sound agree’

Aria and Chorus, ‘Hark! Now the echoing air’

Duet and Chorus, ‘Sure the dull god of marriage’

Prelude

Aria, ‘See, see, I obey’

Duet, ‘Turn then thine eyes’

Aria, ‘My torch, indeed will from such brightness shine’

Trio, ‘They shall be as happy

Chaconne - Dance for the Chinese man and woman

 

Orchestra on the Hill, Chorus and Soloists

Director Francis Knights (harpsichord)

Soloists

Katherine Hambridge, Jo Harries, Camilla Wehmeyer (sopranos), James Neville (countertenor), Nick Aisher (tenor), Daniel Macklin, Chris Law, Chris Webb (basses)

Chorus

Jane Horgan, Hannah Partridge, Cheney Payne, Claire Pike, Katie Skipper, Steph Taylor (sopranos), Alex Jenkin, Mayuko Tanno (altos), Jon Cooper, Richard Benwell  (tenors), Chris Wade, Will Warns (basses)

Orchestra

Dominic Wyse (leader), Philippa Bell, Elizabeth Briggs, Rachel Hill, Patrick Marche (violins), Jamie Conway (viola), David Torrance (continuo), Danielle Ainsworth (cello), Olivia Kenyon, Peter Nickalls (oboes), Katrina Currie, Ewan Stephens (recorders)

 

The Fairy-Queen was first performed at the Queen's Theatre, Dorset Garden, London on 2nd May 1692; it was one of Purcell’s last works. In form a masque or ‘semi-opera’ it sets an anonymous adaptation of Shakespeare's comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream, which was probably written in celebration of William and Mary’s fifteenth wedding anniversary. With all the text and music it would have lasted some four hours. The score was lost after Purcell’s death and only rediscovered early in the twentieth century.

Purcell did not set any of Shakespeare's actual text to music, rather composing music for short masques for almost every act; these are metaphorical rather than directly linked to A Midsummer Night's Dream, so do not feature any of the play’s actual characters. Some of the fairy spoken parts were taken by young children, which must have aided the distancing between the fairies and the mortals in the play.

The masques in the Fairy Queen are presented by Titania or Oberon, with each related to the action of that Act. Thus Night and Sleep (Act II), follow Oberon's plot to use the ‘love-in-idleness’ flower, and the reconciliation masque between Oberon and Titania at the end of Act IV prefigures the final masque.

 

Synopsis

Act 1

Titania has left Oberon, following an argument over the ownership of a little Indian boy. Two of her fairies sing of the delights of the countryside, when a drunken poet enters - they mock him and drive him away.

Act 2

Oberon has ordered Puck to anoint the eyes of Demetrius with the love-juice. Titania and her fairies revel), then Night, Mystery, Secrecy and Sleep lead them to pleasant dreams.

Act 3

Titania has fallen in love with the ass Bottom, to Oberon's amusement. A Nymph sings of the pleasures and torments of love, then Titania and Bottom are entertained by the banter of haymakers Corydon and Mopsa.

Act 4

Titania has been freed from her enchantment, and the celebration of Oberon's birthday begins with a a masque of the god Phoebus and the Four Seasons.

Act 5

Theseus learns of the lovers's adventures in the wood, and the goddess Juno sings a wedding song, followed by a woman who sings the ‘The Plaint’. Hymen is summoned and sings in praise of marital bliss.

 

V -  Choral Evensong

Voluntary in G (Purcell)

Introit: Thou knowest Lord, the secrets of our hearts (Purcell)

Psalm: Chants in A minor and A major (Purcell)

Canticles: Magnificat & Nunc dimittis in B flat (Purcell)

Verse anthem: I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord (Purcell)

Voluntary in D Minor for Double Organ (Purcell)

 

Fitzwilliam College Chapel Choir

Elizabeth Grabbius, Jane Horgan, Sarah Jones, Candy Parfitt, Hannah Partridge, Cheney Payne, Rachel Rayner, Steph Taylor, Emma Winston (sopranos), Antonia Bevan, Michaela Hinson-Raven, Aurelie Hulse, Alex Jenkin, Alice Rose, Kat Shallcross, Diana Stattan (altos), Richard Benwell, Jon Cooper, James Frecknall (tenors), Ben Kinnersley, Georg Lugert, Lliam Paterson, James Richardson, Christian Scheppach, Thomas Smart, Chris Wade (basses)

String ensemble, leader Jo Harrison

Organ Scholar – William Warns

Assisting Organist – Cheney Payne

Contact

Francis Knights

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