Henry Purcell
Born 1659, Henry Purcell was an English composer and organist. Although he incorporated Italian and French stylistic elements into his compositions, Purcell’s legacy was a uniquely English form of Baroque music. He composed for the royal court, church, keyboard, and for chamber ensembles. He is generally considered to be one of the greatest English composers; no later native-born English composer approached his fame until Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, William Walton (who I once talked to) & Benjamin Britten in 20thc. ¬†Handel continues to be revered in England, especially for Messiah, but he was born in Germany and only later became a British citizen.

Purcell Songs – Improvisations:

The Queen of Carthage
The city of Carthage was founded by Phoenicians in the 9th century BCE on the Gulf of Tunis (to the north of the present-day city). From the 6th century BCE Carthage was a great trading empire covering much of the Mediterranean area. In the era of Ancient Rome, Carthage was rebuilt and still stands, now in ruins. According to ancient Greek and Roman sources – primarily from the account given by the Roman poet, Virgil, in his epic Aeneid – Dido was the founder and first queen of Carthage.


Dido & Aeneas
Although Dido is now often associated with the historical figure Aeneas, in reality he had died long before Dido was born. Purcell’s opera, 1688, is based on a 1593 play by Shakespeare’s contemporary, Christopher Marlowe. It tells an intense dramatic story of Queen Dido and her love for Aeneas, his betrayal of her, and her suicide after he abandons her.

Dido’s Lament:
Before Dido commits suicide at the end of the opera, she sings this poignant lament:
When I am laid, am laid in earth, may my wrongs create
No trouble, no trouble in, in thy breast.
When I am laid, am laid in earth, may my wrongs create
No trouble, no trouble in, in thy breast.
Remember me, remember me, but ah
Forget my fate

Underwater version
The audiences at choreographed performance of Dido & Aeneas, staged in Berlin in 2005, were, no doubt, surprised by a bizarre scene in which the dancers performed underwater in an enormous tank on stage:

Slow March from the Funeral Music for Queen Mary, which was also played at Purcell’s own funeral later in the same year, 1695:


-Richard Webb