This page will eventually contain midi performances of a representative selection of compositions by Henry Purcell (1659-1695).
A New Irish Tune
Another piece from Musick's Hand-Maid, this time a simple but engaging setting of a familiar folk tune.
Prelude (voluntary) in G
Few organ works by Purcell have survived. This piece clearly relies on the sustaining power of the organ (and benefits from a spacious acoustic in performance). The first of its two sections incorporates some characteristically wayward harmonies and is improvisatory in nature. This is followed by a robust fugal concluding part.
Ground in Gamut
Another example of Purcell's skill in composition on a ground bass. You may be interested in a version by Soren Aslund, in which the rhythm is "tilted". Thanks, Soren!
Fantazia upon one note (Z745,
This fantazia in F for five viols is one of its composer's highest achievements. An alto part sustains middle C for all 49 bars of the piece. Around this fixed point, Purcell weaves an elaborate polyphony, the dense imitative writing of the opening and later fast music offset by slower chordal sections in the middle and at the end of the piece. A consistent pull towards the minor key adds a spicy variety - indeed, at one point a distinctly bluesy false relation materialises from the texture.
This brass realisation pays homage to another tribute, Elliott Carter's A Fantasy about Purcell's Fantasia upon One Note, in which the sustainted note passes bell-like between all five instruments.
Sonata 1 (2 violins and continuo: Z790, from Sonatas of Three Parts, c1680)
a just imitation of the most fam'd Italian Masters; principally, to bring the seriousness and gravity of that sorth of Musick into vogue, and reputation among our Country-men, whose humor, 'tis time now, should begin to loath the levity, and balladry of our neighboursThe disparagement of the French style is particularly surprising considering that the collection is dedicated to the francophile Charles II, although Purcell mentions that they arise from "the immediate results of your Maiesties Royall Favour". The model for these sonatas (and the further ten pulished posthumously in 1687 by his widow Frances) was the sonata before Corelli standardised the form: so the sequence of movements is not yet fixed in the typical four-movement pattern, and the texture of the works will strike today's listeners as old-fashioned. Roger North noted that the later Italianate style had "cleared the ground of all sort of other musick whatsoever", and famously added that although Purcell's examples where "clog'd with somewhat of an English vein, for which they are unworthily despised", they were indeed "very artificiall and good music".
A note on the realisation
This realisation takes specific advantage of the Yamaha SW60XG soundcard to try to get the best of the solo string sounds. Synthesiser solo strings invariably sound poor, and sadly the XG is no exception. However, I wanted to make the best shot I could at this little movement. To that end, some SysX parameters turn off the default modulation on channels 1-3, and set a maximum modulation somewhat less than default for control 1.
I wrote a couple of Cakewalk CAL scripts to add a swell and vibrate on the last part of longer notes, to emulate some of the performance practice associated with period ('porte de voix'), ran another which scales velocity by distance above a given reference pitch (higher is louder :-) ) and tried to generate a suitable feel through phrasing, dynamic and ornament. Judge for yourself - I'm still not overjoyed with the result, but it does improve on the plain notes and instruments. I'd expect it to sound somewhat poor on other equipment (though clearly depending on the quality and setup of that equipment: I've been told that a SoundBlaster AWE 64 Gold with an 8mb wave table loaded does a good job on them also).