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Compositional Artifice in the Music of Henry Purcell

Compositional Artifice in the Music of Henry Purcell

Part of Musical Performance and Reception

  • Publication planned for: December 2019
  • availability: Not yet published - available from December 2019
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107006669


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About the Authors
  • Fugal invention has proved a successful line of analytical inquiry in recent studies of repertoires from Josquin to J. S. Bach. Alan Howard brings similar insights to the music of Henry Purcell, and proposes the first analytical approach to his music to examine compositional methods alongside historically contemporary theory, focusing particularly on Purcell's 'artificial' approach to imitative counterpoint. Through this methodology Howard challenges previous responses to Purcell's music that portrayed him as fundamentally conservative. This study offers fresh insights into the musical world in which Purcell lived and worked and situates Purcell's compositional concerns in the broader context of notions of artifice in Restoration culture. Howard thereby offers both a fresh analytical approach - to Purcell's early instrumental works and to his later concerted vocal music - and a critique of the reception history surrounding the fantazias and sonatas in particular.

    • Presents a close analytical reading of Purcell's music, grounded in the parallel study of the music theory of his time
    • Places Purcell's compositional interests in the context of wider artistic concerns in the Restoration, and of eighteenth-century reception
    • Includes generous use of music examples to engage readers fully in the book's analytical arguments
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This book documents a remarkable achievement. It not only offers direct insights into the creative processes of a great composer on a technical level, but also succeeds in getting, as it were, into his skin as he faced compositional problems - something not previously attempted in the case of Purcell (and all too rarely accomplished for any composer).' Bruce Wood, Bangor University

    'Compositional Artifice in the Music of Henry Purcell represents a step-change in the emerging musicological sub-discipline of historically informed analysis. By introducing the contemporary notion of 'artificial' composition - in which the composer incorporated intricate imitative devices to provide creative satisfaction for both composer and performer - Howard unravels with remarkable clarity the hidden compositional techniques lying behind Purcell's inventive strategies in both his instrumental chamber music and his later large-scale vocal works. The book provides a set of historically sensitive analytical tools that have the potential to transform the reader's understanding of some of Purcell's greatest masterpieces.' Rebecca Herissone, University of Manchester

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    Product details

    • Publication planned for: December 2019
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107006669
    • dimensions: 247 x 174 mm
    • contains: 11 b/w illus. 8 tables 185 music examples
    • availability: Not yet published - available from December 2019
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Purcell's 'Art of Descant':
    1. In counterpoint: sources and analysis
    2. Artifice, Fugeing and fantazia
    3. 'The chiefest instrumental musick now in request': canzonas and other sonata fugues
    4. 'The power of the Italian notes': Purcell's sonatas as and in reception
    Part II. 'Thou Didst Thy Former Skill Improve':
    5. 'Celestial art[ifice]' in Hail, bright Cecilia
    6. Artifice and musical modelling
    7. Augmentation as artifice, artifice as augmentation
    8. 'Italian sonatas in orchestral garb'.

  • Author

    Alan Howard, Selwyn College, Cambridge
    Alan Howard is a Fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge, where he is Lecturer and Director of Studies in Music. His edition of Odes on the Death of Henry Purcell (2013) was published for the Purcell Society, and he has published widely on English music in journals including JRMA, Music and Letters, Early Music, Musical Times and Eighteenth-Century Music. He is also co-editor of the journal Early Music, a member of the Purcell Society committee, a General Editor of the Works of John Eccles and a trustee of Cambridge Early Music.

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