Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/61

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PURCELL.
49
 

Dryden's plays, but had had merely to set such as the poet had handed him. It is however apparent from Dryden's dedication of 'King Arthur' that in constructing that drama he had followed a different course, and had consulted Purcell as to where, when, and how music could be effectively introduced, and had acted upon his suggestions. He had supplied the composer, at his desire, with variety of measure, and disposed the scenes so as to afford striking contrasts. Purcell's music is a succession of beauties;—the sacrificial scene of the Pagan Saxons; the martial song of the Britons, 'Come if you dare'; the scene with the spirits, Philidel and Grimbald; the songs and dances of the shepherds; the admirably bold and original frost scene; the lovely duet of the Syrens in the enchanted forest, 'Two daughters of this aged stream,' and the songs of the other spirits; and the varied and well contrasted pieces in the concluding masque (including the beautiful melody 'Fairest isle, all isles excelling'), form a combination which no contemporary musician was able to equal, and which for long afterwards remained unrivalled. All contemporary testimony tells of the great success of 'King Arthur,' yet, with the exception about a dozen songs which were included in the 'Orpheus Britannicus,' and those portions of the music which Arne retained in the version made in 1770, it remained unpublished until 1843, when it was printed by the Musical Antiquarian Society, four songs, however, having been lost in the interval. Purcell's other dramatic compositions in 1691 were the overture and act tunes for Elkanah Settle's tragedy 'Distressed Innocence,' and songs in the comedy 'The Gordian knot untyed,' and Southerne's comedy 'Sir Antony Love.' He also composed the Ode for the queen's birthday, 'Welcome, glorious morn.' In 1692 he composed the music for Howard and Dryden's 'Indian Queen,' in which are the recitative 'Ye twice ten hundred deities' (which Burney considered to be 'perhaps the best piece of recitative in our language'), with the air 'By the croaking of the toad,' and the beautiful little rondo 'I attempt from Love's sickness to fly.' The greater part of the songs in 'The Indian Queen' were printed in 1695 by May and Hudgebutt, who prefixed to their publication a curious letter the composer informing him that as they had met with the score of his work they had printed lest others should put out imperfect copies, and craving his pardon for their presumption. The entire work was printed by Goodison. He also composed songs for Dryden's 'Indian Emperor' (a sequel to 'The Indian Queen') and 'Cleomenes,' Southerne's comedy 'The Wives' Excuse,' and D'Urfey's comedy 'The Marriage Hater match'd,' and the music in the third act of Dryden and Lee's tragedy 'Œdipus.' But perhaps the most important dramatic composition he produced this year was the opera of 'The Fairy Queen,' an anonymous adaptation of Shakspere's 'Midsummer Night's Dream,' which was very well received by the public, although the great expense incurred for scenery, dresses, etc., rendered it but little productive to the managers. The composer published in the same year 'Some Select Songs as they are sung in The Fairy Queen,' 10 in number; 10 other pieces are in the 'Orpheus Britannicus,' and the instrumental music is in the 'Ayres for the Theatre'; the Sacred Harmonic Society possesses a MS. of nearly the whole of the fourth act, but the remainder of the choral portions and two or three more songs are irretrievably lost. The score was lost in or before 1700, in October of which year the patentees of the theatre offered a reward of £20 for the recovery of it or a copy of it. That they did not recover it may be inferred from the piece never having been revived. One of the songs which has been preserved, 'If love's a sweet passion,' long remained in favour: Gay wrote one of the songs in 'The Beggar's Opera' to the air. In the same year Purcell set Sir Charles Sedley's Ode for the queen's birthday, 'Love's Goddess sure was blind.' One of the airs in this Ode, 'May her blest example chase,' has for its bass the air of the old song 'Cold and raw'; the occasion of which was thus:—Queen Mary had one day sent for Arabella Hunt and Gostling to sing to her, with Purcell as accompanyist. After they had performed several fine compositions by Purcell and others, the queen asked Arabella Hunt to sing the ballad of 'Cold and raw.' Purcell, nettled at finding a common ballad preferred to his music, but seeing it pleased the queen, determined that she should hear it again when she least expected it, and adopted this ingenious method of effecting his object. He also set Brady's Ode 'Hail! great Cecilia,' which was performed at the annual celebration on St. Cecilia's day, Purcell himself singing the alto song ''Tis Nature's voice.' This Ode—one of the finest of its composer's works of that class—was printed by the Musical Antiquarian Society. In 1693 Purcell composed an overture and act-tunes for Congreve's comedy 'The Old Bachelor,' and songs for D'Urfey's comedy 'The Richmond Heiress,' Southerne's comedy 'The Maid's Last Prayer,' and Bancroft's tragedy 'Henry the Second.' He also set Tate's Ode for the queen's birthday, 'Celebrate this festival' (printed by Goodison), and his Ode in commemoration of the centenary of the foundation of Trinity College, Dublin, 'Great Parent, hail!' (also printed by Goodison), said to have been performed at Christ Church, Dublin, Jan. 9, 1693–4. Strange to say, Trinity College register does not contain any record of or allusion to the centenary celebration. In 1694 Purcell composed portions of the music for Parts I. and II. of D'Urfey's 'Don Quixote' (Part I. containing the duet 'Sing, all ye Muses,' and the fine bass song 'Let the dreadful engines'), an overture, act-tunes and songs for Congreve's comedy, 'The Double Dealer,' and songs for Crowne's comedy 'The Married Beau,' Southerne's tragedy 'The Fatal Marriage,' and Dryden's play 'Love triumphant.' He also composed the Ode for the queen's birthday, 'Come, come, ye Sons of Art'; and, for the Cecilian celebration, his celebrated