Back in January, we listened to Henry Purcell’s Fantasia Upon One Note for 5 viols in F major, Z. 745, music in which a single pitch is sustained in the tenor voice while the other voices float and weave in seamless polyphony.
Purcell’s Fantasia in Three Parts Upon a Ground offers a similar contrast between stability and unbridled adventure. Here, a series of thrilling variations develop over a recurring ostinato bass line. This was a common compositional technique for composers during the baroque period. (Johann Pachelbel’s iconic Canon in D may be the most famous example). Purcell’s Fantasia in Three Parts Upon a Ground was composed sometime around 1678. For perspective, that is seven years before the birth of J.S. Bach.
This performance by Tafelmusik, a Toronto-based ensemble specializing in early music, is filled with breathtaking virtuosity and a sense of pure joy:
- Purcell: Fantasia in Three Parts Upon a Ground, Tafelmusik tafelmusik.org
Photograph: The interior of Westminster Abbey, where Henry Purcell was organist from 1679 to 1695.