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Introduction

Authored by: Rebecca Herissone

The Ashgate Research Companion to Henry Purcell

Print publication date:  May  2012
Online publication date:  April  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754666455
eBook ISBN: 9781315613024
Adobe ISBN: 9781317043270

10.4324/9781315613024.ch1

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Abstract

If there was one thing about the tercentenary of Purcell’s death on which reviewers were agreed, it was that the 1995 anniversary spawned an abundance of publications on the composer. 1 1

See, for example, Robert Shay’s review of Michael Burden (ed.), The Purcell Companion (London: Faber, 1995; Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1995), in Notes Series 2/54 (1997–98): 69; Mark Radice’s review of Peter Holman, Henry Purcell, Oxford Studies of Composers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), Michael Burden, Purcell Remembered (London and Boston: Faber, 1995), and Curtis Price (ed.), Purcell Studies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), in Notes Series 2/53 (1996–97): 791; Richard Semmens’s review of Curtis Price (ed.), Purcell Studies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), in Music & Letters 78 (1997): 107–8; and my own review of Martin Adams, Henry Purcell: The Origins and Development of his Musical Style (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), in Early Music History 15 (1996): 270.

While these were very broad-ranging – both in terms of their intended readership and of their quality – they included a substantial amount of genuinely new research, which not only significantly changed our understanding of Purcell and his music, but has also shaped much of the subsequent work carried out in the field. The tercentenary understandably provoked a good deal of reflection on the state of Purcell scholarship, which was largely optimistic in tone, but nevertheless showed an awareness that the field had not been especially well served in previous decades and that much remained to be done. Writing in the Introduction to Performing the Music of Henry Purcell, for example, Nicholas Kenyon recalled the words of Vaughan Williams, penned in 1951 – ‘We all pay lip service to Henry Purcell, but what do we really know of him?’ – and lamented ‘More than forty years on, are we much the wiser?’; 2 2

Nicholas Kenyon, ‘Henry Purcell: Towards a Tercentenary’, in Michael Burden (ed.), Performing the Music of Henry Purcell (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996), p. 1.

and Peter Holman was able to note enthusiastically that Purcell scholarship was ‘on the move after a fallow period’, but nevertheless cautioned that there was ‘a pressing need at the moment for informed and up-to-date writing on his music’. 3 3

Peter Holman, Henry Purcell, Oxford Studies of Composers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. vii–viii.

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