Three Purcell Snapshots: Tafelmusik

Henry Purcell (1659-1695) only lived to age 36, but he has long been regarded as one of England’s greatest composers. From age 20 until the end of his life, he served as the organist of Westminster Abbey, a position which afforded celebrity status at the time. He was also appointed chief harpsichordist for the court of King James II. His music, which includes the famous 1689 opera, Dido and Aeneas, continues to influence a wide spectrum of musicians, including Pete Townshend, the guitarist for The Who. (The songs, I Can See For Miles, Won’t Get Fooled Again and Pinball Wizard were all influenced by Purcell).

Earlier this year, we explored Purcell’s innovative Fantasia Upon One Noteas well as the Fantasia in Three Parts Upon a GroundFor the second work, I selected a joyful and virtuosic performance by Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, a Toronto-based ensemble specializing in early music. Let’s return to the Tafelmusik video archive for three more brief Purcell “snapshots”:

Third Act Tune from The Indian Queen

Purcell died before he could complete The Indian Queen, a semi-opera based on a play by John Dryden. In this dreamy rondeau, listen carefully to the aching dissonances which emerge in the inner voices:

Symphony from St. Cecilia Ode

This celebratory music was written in honor of the feast day of Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians. It is the opening introduction to Purcell’s 1692 Ode to St. Cecilia. Listen for the frolicking two note dialogue which unfolds between the violins and oboes:

Rondeau from Abdelazer

Originally written as incidental music for a 1695 play, this distinctive and spirited rondeau forms the theme of Benjamin Britten’s 1945 The Young Person’s Guide to the OrchestraThe theme is the seed out of which Britten’s entire piece grows. Culminating in a swirling fugue which showcases the entire modern orchestra, it’s a musical homage which glances back nearly 300 years.

Recordings

  • Purcell: Third Act Tune from The Indian Queen (House of Dreams), Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra tafelmusik.com
  • Purcell: Symphony from Ode to St. Cecilia (House of Dreams), Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra tafelmusik.com 
  • Purcell: Rondeau from Abdelazer (The Galileo Project), Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra tafelmusik.com

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

1 thought on “Three Purcell Snapshots: Tafelmusik”

  1. This Variations on Purcell is full of delights – a concert in itself! Certainly not to be limited to children’s ears.

    The Trumpet Tune was my first piece of actual classical music, other than the tidbits from beginner books. In college they informed us, peering down their noses, that it was actually by Jeremiah Clarke, but they must have been wrong. I just had a foray through various interpretations, some spirited and joyful, others as solemn as a rubber boot sitting in the closet… and then I considered the freedom we have, that there is no governmental Office de Musique that tells us how to interpret or arrange those little black marks people put on paper to make their dreams real. Thus we have fantastic arrangements like the Variations, and some who play like turtles and others like jackrabbits. Vive la difference!

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend