William Hayman Cummings.

Purcell online

. (page 4 of 9)
Online LibraryWilliam Hayman CummingsPurcell → online text (page 4 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


period. This play, the work of Charles Davenant,
when first produced, was accompanied by music from
the pen of John Banister, 1 some of which was published
in 1679.

A few years since Dr. Kimbault unfortunately pub-
lished a portion of Purcell's music to Circe with Banis-
ter's name attached as the composer, 2 but he afterwards
discovered the error he had fallen into. 3 Circe is one
of Purcell's best dramatic works, and contains music
which no other composer of his time could have writ-
ten ; it still remains in manuscript. Only music to the
first act is now to be found. Perhaps Purcell never
completed it.

In 1686 Purcell was again afflicted by the death of a
child who had been christened Thomas in remembrance
of the deceased uncle. . The infant was buried in the
cloisters of Westminster Abbey. In this year Purcell
composed the music for Dryden's tragedy, Tyrannic
Love, in which there are several effective and elegant
pieces, notably " Hark, my Daridcar," a duet, and " Ah,
how sweet it is to love," a song. In addition to this,
he wrote another " Ode, or Welcome Song for the Bang,"
commencing, " Ye tuneful Muses."

In 1687 Purcell had another son born who was

1 So spelt in the registers of Westminster Abbey, but
"Bunester" on his monument.

2 See No. 15 of The Ancient Vocal Music of England, by
E. F. Rimbault, published by Novello & Co.

3 See Concordia, April 15 and 22, 1876.



PURCELL. 45

named Henry, but he survived only two months, and
was buried with his kindred in the cloisters of West-
minster Abbey. Purcell composed another " Ode in
honour of King James," commencing " Sound the trum-
pet, beat the drum," in which occurs a duet to the
words, " Let Csesar and Urania live ; " this became so
great a favourite that succeeding composers were wont
to insert it in their own royal birthday odes. This prac-
tice continued till the close of the succeeding century.

About this time Purcell composed a " March " and a
" Quickstep," which soon became popular and familiar
to the soldiers ; a short time afterward some one, pro-
bably Lord Wharton, the Irish Viceroy, with much
foresight and wisdom, selected the tune of the " Quick-
step" as a vehicle for making known the absurd verses of
the song called " Lillibullero." Thanks to the music,
the song spread like wildfire, with the result described
by Bishop Burnet, who says, " A foolish ballad was
made at that time, treating the Papists, and chiefly the
Irish, in a very ridiculous manner, which had a burden
said to be Irish words, ' Lero, lero, lillibullero/ that
made an impression on the army that cannot be ima-
gined by those that saw it not. The whole army, and
at last the people, both in city and country, were sing-
ing it perpetually, and perhaps never had so slight a
thing so great an effect." The Viceroy " boasted that
the song had sung a deluded Prince out of the three
kingdoms." Other testimony speaks of the song
" having contributed not a little towards the great
Revolution of 1688."

The earliest existing printed copies of these tunes



LIBRARY OF THE PERFORMING ARTS
AV E. KEW YORK,



46 THE GREAT MUSICIANS.

are dated 1686, but he reprinted the "Quickstep" in
1689, under the title of " A new Irish tune," in a work
called Musick's Handmaid for the Virginals or Harp-
sichord ; and he again used the tune as a ground-bass
to a piece of incidental music in the play of The
Gordian Knot Unty'd. The music of " Lillibullero "
remains in use to this day in the north of Ireland as a
political and party tune, but its use is discontinued by
our military bands out of respect for the feelings of our
Irish Roman Catholic brethren.

In 1687 Henry Playford published A Pastoral Elegy on
the Death of Mr. John Playford, the Words ly Mr. Tate,
set to Musick l>y Mr. Henry Purcell. It has commonly been
believed that this was an elegy on " honest John," as he
was familiarly called, but in truth it was in memory of
the youngest son of the celebrated old publisher. We
have no particulars of his death, but judging from the
words of the elegy it must have occurred suddenly :

"Then waste no more in sighs your breath,
Nor think his fate was hard ;
There's no such thing as sudden death
To those that always are prepar'd."

This John Playford was only twenty-one years of age
when he died ; he had commenced business as a music
publisher, and would seem to have been remarkable
for amiability and piety.

In January, 1688, Purcell, by virtue of his office as
"composer in ordinary to his Majesty," received in-
structions from the King, James II., to compose an
anthem to be performed at the Chapel Royal on the
25th of that mouth, a day which was commanded to



PURCELL. 47

be observed as a general thanksgiving in London and
twelve miles round, in consequence of the supposed
pregnancy of the Queen. As news travelled but slowly
in those days, places beyond the radius named were
commanded to keep the 29th as a day of joyful thanks-
giving. For the occasion Purcell wrote the anthem
commencing, " Blessed are they that fear the Lord ; " it
is scored for the usual solo voices and chorus, with
accompaniments for the organ and quartet of strings.

In May, 1688, Purcell had a daughter born, she was
baptized in Westminster Abbey, receiving the name
of Frances. This child attained to years of maturity,
surviving both her father and her mother.

This year was a troublous one ; the political horizon
was black, and the national fortunes were in great
jeopardy, people had small time or inclination for
public amusements, but Purcell contributed music for
at least one play, The Fool's Preferment, or the Three
Dukes of DunstaUe, a comedy by D'Urfey. The songs
were sung by William Mountford, who, Colley Gibber
says, 1 " sung a clear counter-tenor, and had a melo-
dious warbling throat." "His voice was clear, full,
and melodious."

Mountford was a great favourite with the public as
an actor and singer, and he was also a dramatic author,
but his career was brought to an untimely end in his
thirty-third year by Lord Mohun and Captain Hill,
who murdered him in revenge for the part he took in
preventing the abduction of the celebrated actress, Mrs.
Bracegirdle.

1 Apology for the Life of Colley Cibber.



48 THE GREAT MUSICIANS.

The songs in the Fool's Preferment, were published
with the play soon after its production at the Queen's
Theatre in Dorset Gardens, the title partly reads
" together with all the songs and notes to 'em. Excel-
lently compos'd by Mr. Henry Purcell." Purcell s
continued composing for the church ; an anthem, " The
Lord is King," bearing date 1688. He also composed
one more " Ode or Welcome Song " for James II. ;
the last music he had occasion to pen for this King.

Curiously we find that Purcell again became Copyist
of Westminster Abbey in this year ; he succeeded
Charles Taylour, but for what reason has not been
discovered. No information respecting Taylour can
now be found.

In December the unhappy monarch, James II., fled
from his throne and kingdom, and was succeeded by
William and Mary, who were crowned at Westminster
Abbey in 1689, and in connection with that event a
curious story is told by Hawkins : x

"In the beginning of the year 1689 he (Purcell) became
engaged in a dispute with Dr. Sprat, the then Dean, and
the Chapter of Westminster, the occasion whereof was
this. It seems that at the coronation of King William
and Queen Mary, he had received and claimed as his
right, the money taken for admission into the organ
loft of persons desirous of being near spectators of that
ceremony, which for the following reasons must be
supposed to have amounted to a considerable sum ; the
profit arising to the owner of one of the houses at the
west end of the Abbey, where only the procession
could be viewed, amounted at the last coronation to

*

1 History of Music, Novello's Edition, vol. ii. p. 743.



PTTRCELL. 49

five hundred pounds. The organ in Purcell's time was
on the north side of the choir, and was much nearer the
altar than now, so that the spectators from thence might
behold the whole of the august ceremony. A sum like
that which this must be presumed to have been was
worth contending for, and if Purcell had the authority
of precedent for his support, he was right in retaining it
as a perquisite arising from his office ; but his masters
thought otherwise, and insisted on it as their due, for
in an old Chapter book I find the following entry :
' 18 April, 1689, Mr. Purcell, the organ-blower, to pay
to Mr. Needham such money as was received by him
for places in the organ-loft, and in default thereof his
place to be declared null and void, and that his stipend
or salary to be detained in the treasurer's hands until
further orders.' Upon which it may be observed that
the penning of it is an evidence of great ignorance
or malice, in that it describes him by the appellation of
organ-blower who was the organist of their own church,
and in truth the most excellent musician of his time.
What the issue of this contest was does not appear.
It may be supposed either that he refunded the money,
or compounded the matter with the Dean and Chapter,
it being certain that he continued to execute his office
for some years after."

The above account in Sir John Hawkins's hand is
now lying before me with a note that it is to be inserted
in vol. iv. p. 497 ; it fills two pages of letter paper, and
on the third page of the same sheet is a further note
by Dr. Benjamin Cooke, which certainly ought to have
been printed with the foregoing :

"The order herein alluded to is not the real entry
in the Chapter minutes, but is in another old book
which contains copies or memorandums of many of the



50 THE GREAT MUSICIANS.

Chapter minutes, and probably was the rough draft, or
it might be done by Mr. Needham afterwards from his
recollection, and so the wording is different tho' the
substance of both is the same, and this book was
shown to me, and afterwards by my desire to Sir John
Hawkins, at which time we understood it to be the
original Chapter minutes, but have since been con-
vinced of the contrary by having seen the original
minute; and in this last he is not described by the
title of Organ-blower, as he is in the former, but he is
stil'd organist. B. C."

Whatever may have been the end of this dispute, it
probably was speedily concluded, for we find by the
Abbey registers of the 6th September following, that
Purcell had an infant son baptized in the Abbey, who
received the name of Edward ; this child survived his
parents and became an organist of some note.

On the 5th of August, 1689, a new ode by Purcell,
called " A Welcome Song at the Prince of Denmark's
Coming Home," and commencing, "Celestial music,"
was performed at Mr. MaidwelTs, a schoolmaster. In
commemoration of the accession of William and Mary,
Tom D'Urfey prepared an ode abounding in praise of
" The Great Nassau." This Purcell set to music, and
it was subsequently performed at a cost of 100 in
the " Merchant Taylors' Hall," at the gathering of the
natives of the County of York at their feast, March
27th, 1690 ; from which circumstance the ode is known
as "The Yorkshire Feast Song." The music became
extremely popular ; portions of it were printed in the
Orpheus Britannicus, and other collections, and the
entire work was printed by Goodison in 1788 or 1789,



PTTRCELL. 51

but in a very incorrect fashion. It has lately been
published in a very satisfactory manner by the new
" Purcell Society."

v^ In the year 1690 Purcell must have worked assidu-
ously for the theatres ; we can trace to this period the
production of The Tempest, an alteration from Shakes-
peare by Shadwell ; The Prophetess, or Dioclesian, an
adaptation from Beaumont and Fletcher by Betterton ;
the Massacre of Paris, by Lee; and Amphitryon, by
Dryden.

The music of The Tempest is extremely beautiful,
witness " Come unto these Yellow Sands " and " Full
Fathom Five," which are known and admired and in
vogue to this day. These pieces being allied to
Shakespeare's lines are not likely to be superseded by
other composers' music, but unfortunately the major
part of PurcelTs work in The Tempest is married to
verse not Shakespeare's, and cannot therefore find any
fitting place in a performance of the play.

Dioclesian, at first called The Prophetess, was adver-
tised for publication in the London Gazette, July 3rd,
1690:

" The vocal and instrumental musick in the opera
called The Prophetess, composed by Mr. Henry Purcell,
is designed to be printed by way of subscriptions. Pro-
posals may be seen at Mr. John Carr's shop at the
Middle Temple Gate, and at Mr. Henry Play ford's shop
near the Inner Temple Church, who are appointed to
take subscriptions."

It was published the following year with the title,
" The Vocal and Instrumental Musick of the Prophetess,



52 THE GREAT MUSICIANS.

or the History of Diocksian, composed by Henry Pur-
cell, Organist of their Majesties' Chappel, and of St.
Peter's, Westminster. London, Printed by J. Heptin-
stall, for the Author, and are to be sold by John Carr,
at his shop at the Middle Temple Gate near Temple-
Barr. M.DCXCI."

The libretto was made into a so-called opera. Purcell
dedicated the work to the Duke of Somerset, and, as
was the manner of the times, introduced his published
score of the music with a flowery preface ; it contains
many interesting passages and reads as follows :

"Your Grace has been pleas'd so particularly to
favour the Composition of the Musick in Diodesian,
that from thence I have been encourag'd to this presump-
tion of Dedicating not only It, but also the unworthy
Author of it to your Protection. All Arts and Sciences
have receiv'd their first encouragement from Great
Persons, and owe their Propagation and Success to
their esteem : like some sort of Fruit-trees, which being
of a tender Constitution, and delicate in their Nature,
require the shadow of the Cedar to shield their Infancy
from Elites and Storms.

" Music and Poetry have ever been acknowledged
Sisters, which walking hand in hand supports each
other ; As Poetry is the harmony of Words, So Musick
is that of Notes : and as Poetry is a Rise above Prose
and Oratory, so is Musick the exaltation of Poetry.
Both of them may excel apart, but sure they are most
excellent when they are joyn'd because nothing is then
wanting to either of their Perfections : for thus they
appear like Wit and Beauty in the same Person.
Poetry and Painting have arriv'd to their perfection in
our own Country : Musick is yet but in its Nonage, a
forward Child which gives hope of what it may be



PTTBCELL. 53

hereafter in ENGLAND, when the Masters of it shall
find more Encouragement. Tis now learning ITALIAN,
which is its best Master, and studying a little of the
French Air, to give it somewhat more of Gayety and
Fashion. Thus being farther from the Sun, we are of
later Growth than our Neighbour Countries, and must
be content to shake off our Barbarity by degrees. The
present Age seems already dispos'd to be refin'd, and
to distinguish betwixt wild Fancy, and a just, numerous
Composition. So far the Genius of your Grace has
already prevail'd on Us. Many of the Nobility and
Gentry have followed your Illustrious Example in the
Patronage of Musick. Nay, even our Poets begin to
grow asham'd of their harsh and broken Numbers, and
promise to file our uncouth Language into smoother
Words. Once more, therefore, I presume to offer My-
self and this Composition with all humility to Your
Grace's Protection, at least till I can redeem so mean
a Present by One which may better deserve Your
Acceptation. Be pleas'd to pardon my Ambition, which
had no other means to obtain the Honour of being
made known to You, but only this. The Town, which
has been so indulgent to my first Endeavours in this
kind, has encourag'd me to proceed in the same
Attempt ; and Your Favour to this Trifle will be a good
Omen not only to the Success of the Next, but also to
all the future Performances of Your Grace's most
Obedient and most Obliged Servant,

"HENRY PURCELL."

The music of Dioclesian is scored for "1st Violins,
2nd Violins, Tener Violins, Base Violins, 2 Flutes,
3 Hautboys (1st, 2nd, and Tener), 1 Basoon and 2 Trum-
pets ; " the vocal parts have solos for all the voices, and
there are numerous choruses. It is evident Purcell
regarded this work with some affection and pride ; all



54 THE GREAT MUSICIANS.

the printed copies were corrected by his own hand. At
the end of the book is printed the following :

" Advertisement. In order to the speedier Publication
of this Book, I employed two several Printers ; but
One of them falling into some trouble, and the Volume
swelling to a Bulk beyond my expectation, have been
the Occasions of this Delay.

" It has been objected that some of the Songs are
already common ; but I presume that the Subscribers,
upon perusal of the Work, will easily be convinced that
they are not the Essential Parts of it. I have, accord-
ing to my Promise in the Proposals, been very carefull
in the Examination of every Sheet, and hope the
Whole will appear as Correct as any yet Extant. My
desire to make it as cheap as possibly I cou'd to the
Subscribers, prevail'd with me so far above the con-
sideration of my own Interest, that I find too late the
Subscription money will scarcely amount to the Expense
of compleating this Edition."

Although Diodesian did not prove a lucrative invest-
ment for the composer it must have added considerably
to his fame ; produced at the Queen's Theatre in 1690,
Downes, in his Roscius Anglicanus, says, " It gratify'd
the expectation of Court and City ; and got the author
great reputation." One of the airs in the piece, " What
shall I do to show how much I love her," was after-
wards adapted to the words, " Virgins are like the Fair
Flower in its Lustre," and did duty as a part of The
Beggar's Opera.

The songs from Amphitryon 1 were published by
Heptinstall soon after the production of the comedy.

' The Songs in Amphitryon, ivith the Mustek. Composed by
Mr. Henry Purcell. London : printed by J. Heptinstall for
Jacob Tonson, at the Judge's Head in Chancery Lane. MDCXC."



PURCELL, 55

PurcelTs music for Dioclesian and for Amphitryon
seems to have opened the eyes of Dryden, who had
evidently been blind to the distinguished talent of the
composer. In the Epistle Dedicatory to Amphitryon,
dated October 24, 1690, Dryden says :

" What has been wanting on my part has been abun-
dantly supplyed by the Excellent Composition of
Mr. Purcell ; in whose Person we have at length found
an Englishman equal with the best abroad. At least
my Opinion of him has been such, since his happy and
judicious Performances in the late Opera, 1 and the Ex-
periences I have had of him, in the setting of my three
Songs for this Amphitryon : To all which, and particu-
larly to the Composition of the Pastoral Dialogue, the
numerous Quire of Fair Ladies gave so just an Applause
on the Third Day."

In addition to the before-mentioned plays, Purcell
composed in 1690 the music for D'Urfey's " Ode for
the Queen's Birthday, April 29," commencing "Arise,
my muse," and also an ode for King William beginning
with the words, " Sound the trumpet."

We find that he again resigned his appointment as
Copyist at Westminster Abbey, and was succeeded by
Edward Braddock, who was one of the Lay Vicars and
Master of the Choristers, and also a Gentleman of the
Chapels Eoyal.

In the succeeding year, 1691, Purcell produced the
music for King Arthur, written by Dryden. It was
one of Purcell's most elaborate and most successful
efforts in dramatic composition, and contains several
pieces which have always been held in popular favour.

1 Dioclesian.



56 THE GREAT MUSICIANS.

The solo and chorus, " Come, if you Dare," is to this
day one of the most stirring and effective displays
which a tenor vocalist could select, and is therefore
frequently heard. The whole of the frost scene is re-
markable from its vocal realism of intense and freezing
cold. The peculiar and original effects here introduced
by Purcell were afterwards copied by Jeremiah Clark,
a fellow-student of Purcell, in the anthem, " I will love
Thee, Lord." Mention must also be made of the
lovely duet, " Two daughters of this aged stream."

Unfortunately no complete copy of the score of this
work, the outcome of the composer's mature judgment,
exists. It is presumed that Purcell wrote only one
perfect copy, which was retained by the managers of
the theatre, who, jealous of possible rivals, would
neither permit it to be copied in manuscript or printed. 1
The success at the time of its production is thus re-
corded by Downes in his Eoscius Anylicanus:

" King Arthur, an opera, wrote by Mr. Dryden ; it
was excellently adorned with scenes and machines : the
musical part set by the famous Mr. Henry Purcell, and
Dances made by Mr. Jo. Priest : the play and musick
pleas'd the Court and City, and being well perforin'd
'twas very gainful to the company."

Dryden's courtly servility has been deplored by more
than one author. He had followed the lead set by
Charles II., who had imported Monsieur Grabu from
France, and set him up as a musical king, and for
him, by royal command, Dryden wrote the opera of

1 North, in the Memoires of Musick, 1728, mentions Purcell's
King Arthur as at that time " unhappily lost."



PURCELL. 57

Albion and Albanius. In the preface to the work

he says :

" The best judges, and those too of the best quality,
who have honoured his (Grabu's) rehearsals with their
presence, have no less commended the happiness of his
genius than his skill. These and other qualities have
raised M. Grabu to a degree above any man who shall
pretend to be his rival on our stage."

The composer who was thus set above Purcell appears
to have enjoyed a somewhat exalted opinion of his own
ability, as will be seen by the following extract from
the dedication of Albion and Albanius, addressed to
James II. by Grabu himself:

" As the subject of this opera is naturally magnificent,
it could not but excite my genius, and raise it to a
greater height in the composition even so as to sur-
pass itself. The only displeasure which remains with
me is, that I could not possibly be furnished with
variety of excellent voices to present it to your Majesty
in full perfection."

Contrast this bumptious self-assertion with the modest
prefaces of Purcell previously quoted. However, not-
withstanding the patronage of the King and the flatteries
of Dry den, Albion and Albanius proved a great failure :
it was performed only six times, and from the date of
its last performance (1685) Dry den became impressed
with the conviction that he must look elsewhere for
his future composer, and, as we have already seen, he
at last recognised the merits of Purcell. In the preface
to King Arthur, intended by Dry den as a sequel to
Albion and Albanius, the author says, " he submitted



58 THE GREAT MUSICIANS.

himself in writing and preparing it for the stage"
entirely to the guidance of PurcelL This confession
was probably made with considerable compunction.

The following extracts from Dryden's Epistle Dedica-
tory, prefixed to the libretto, will be read with interest :

" I humbly offer you this trifle, which if it succeed
upon the stage, is like to be the chiefest Entertainment
of our Ladies and Gentlemen this summer. When I
wrote it, seven years ago, I employ'd some reading
about it, to inform myself out of Beda, Bochartus, and
other authors, concerning the rites and customs of the
heathen Saxons ; as I also used the little skill I have
in Poetry to adorn it. But not to offend the present
times, nor a government which has hitherto protected
me, I have been obliged so much to alter the first
design, and take away so many beauties from the
writing, that it is now no more what it was formerly,
than the ship of the Royal Sovereign, after so often
taking down, and altering, to the vessel it was at the first
building. There is nothing better, than what I intended,
than the Musick ; which has since arriv'd to a greater
perfection in England, than ever formerly; especially
passing through the artful hands of Mr. Purcel, who
has compos'd it with so great a genius, that he has
nothing to fear but an ignorant, ill-judging audience.
But the numbers of poetry and vocal musick, are some-
times so contrary, that in many places I have been
oblig'd to cramp my Verses, and make them rugged to
the reader, that they may be harmonious to the hearer :


1 2 4 6 7 8 9

Online LibraryWilliam Hayman CummingsPurcell → online text (page 4 of 9)