Henry Purcell, (1659-95)

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9781857020984: Henry Purcell, (1659-95)

A biography of Henry Purcell using documentary evidence, gleaned from an investigation of original documents and sources. Maureen Duffy's writing aims to capture the sights, sounds and the flavour of 17th-century London, the city Purcell never left.

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From Publishers Weekly:

Novelist Duffy (That's How It Was) brings a formidable amount of scholarship, as well as a very welcome inclination to dramatize wherever possible, to this life of England's most famous pre-19th-century composer. But the fact is that an extraordinarily limited amount is known about Purcell, other than that he was vastly celebrated in his lifetime, steered adroitly clear of the partisan royalist and religious struggles of his era (the late 17th century) and died in his 30s, as pathetically early as Mozart; reputedly he was locked out of the house by his wife on returning late from an evening of drinking, and succumbed to what was probably a virulent form of influenza. Even this colorful tale cannot be confirmed, but like much of what appears in Duffy's book, has to be pieced together from the personal diaries, publications and scanty public records of the time. There is therefore vast supposition at work here; and though Duffy manages it as gracefully as possible, a great deal of extraneous detail has to be sifted to get at the bones of Purcell's short life. The music, fortunately, can still be heard, and Duffy's evocations of his greatest works are sufficient to send any music lover back to his immortal legacy.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal:

Duffy was led to Purcell by her previous biography of his contemporary, Aphra Behn (Passionate Shepardess, Heinemann, 1989). Now she has written a dense, richly detailed account of the life and times of England's greatest composer of the 17th century. Duffy's great strength is her intimate knowledge and understanding of politics and mores in Britain's Restoration era. She has researched this material thoroughly and has a novelist's flair for dramatic narrative. Frequently, however, her preoccupation with carefully documented minutiae threatens to overwhelm her subject. Another weakness is the short shrift given to Purcell's music. Duffy is no musicologist, and though her love of music clearly shines through, her descriptions of the works themselves are brief and often naive. Still, this book is a valuable addition to Purcell scholarship, casting new light on his achievements and ultimately strengthening his reputation as one of Britain's best native-born composers.?Larry A. Lipkis, Moravian Coll., Bethlehem, Pa.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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