Henry Purcell

1659- November 21, 1695

Henry Purcell Artistfacts

  • Henry Purcell was born in St. Ann's Lane, Old Pye Street Westminster, London, probably in 1659. As far as is known he spent his entire life in Westminster.
  • Henry went to live with his uncle, Thomas Purcell, after the death of his father in 1665. Thomas Purcell was a gentleman of the Chapel Royal which meant that Henry received his early training as a chorister in the king's choir.
  • In 1682 Purcell became organist of the Chapel Royal, combining the job with his already existing role of organist at Westminster Abbey. His first printed composition, "Twelve Sonatas," was published the following year.
  • Although he only lived until his mid-30s, Purcell wrote a very large amount of music. The most original English composer of his time, he merged the Italian and French styles with the English madrigal tradition to create a uniquely English form of Baroque music. Many believe Purcell was England's greatest composer until Sir Edward Elgar emerged 200 years later.
  • Purcell contributed a number of elaborate choral odes and welcome songs for royal occasions. He penned six odes for the birthday of Queen Mary II, two of his finest anthems, "I was glad" and "My heart is inditing", were written for the 1685 coronation of James II and he also composed music for Queen Mary's funeral in 1695.
  • The personal taste of Purcell was more for the theater and after the death of King Charles II in 1685, he devoted much of his time to writing music for the stage. Purcell wrote incidental music for a total 43 plays.
  • Purcell fathered six children by his wife Frances, four of whom died in infancy.
  • Purcell died in 1695 at his home in Marsham Street, London on November 21, 1695, at the height of his career. The cause of his death is unclear, but was possibly tuberculosis.
  • Purcell is buried next to the organ in Westminster Abbey. His epitaph reads, "Here lyes Henry Purcell Esq., who left this life and is gone to that blessed place where only his harmony can be exceeded." (Source of all above The Encyclopedia of Trivia.)

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