Henry Purcell

1659-1695. English composer. The Purcell family produced several musicians active in the Restoration period of English history. Henry is considered the only great and original genius between Elizabethan times and the renaissance of music that occurred in England with Elgar and Vaughan Williams at the end of the nineteenth century. During that period, except for relatively minor figures, foreign-born composers dominated the British musical scene. Purcell was organist of Westminister Abbey from 1679 until his death. He was also active in the Chapel Royal until its virtual dissolution with the advent of James II. His anthems were written for that institution, many of them with exacting solos for the famous bass, John Gostling. Purcell wrote much secular music throughout his short life, but his best anthems still rank high among his works. The simpler ones have been most performed in more recent times. Best known is his beautiful “Rejoice in the Lord alway,” normally rendered without the elaborate string interludes (“symphonies”) he wrote for the chapel of Charles II.