Talk:Henry Purcell

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Educational assignment[edit]

This article is about to be edited as part of an educational assignment by Union University (of Jackson, Tennessee). This is being discussed here. --Kleinzach 06:04, 30 November 2009 (UTC)

Organist at Westminster Abbey[edit]

At different points the article says Purcell was appointed organist in 1676 and 1679 (when Blow resigned in Purcell's favour). This seems like a discrepancy to me. Also, if he was born in 1659, how could he have been 22? --Robert.Allen (talk) 04:17, 7 January 2010 (UTC)

I changed the occupation for the earlier date to "copyist" per 1911 Britannica, which states that "organist" is erroneously given in other sources. This is also in better agreement with the article in New Grove 2, which states he became organist in 1879. I am going to delete the reference to his being twenty-two in 1879, since the birth date provided in the article does not agree with this conclusion. If Runciman presents good evidence for an earlier birth year, then this should be incorporated into the lead, and the reference to "twenty-two years old" can be reinstated. But New Grove 2 says it was probably 1659. I don't have access to Runcilman. --Robert.Allen (talk) 05:41, 7 January 2010 (UTC)

Runciman was first published in 1909 (OCLC 5690003), so he is not a a credible source for birthdate information, when compared to New Grove 2. --Robert.Allen (talk) 06:26, 7 January 2010 (UTC)

A lot of date mistakes[edit]

I notice that the dates given in the article for his "early" theatre music seem to have been taken from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica:

...in 1676 he was appointed copyist at Westminster Abbey,.[1] and in the same year he composed the music to John Dryden's Aureng-zebe and Thomas Shadwell's Epsom Wells and The Libertine. These were followed in 1677 by the music to Aphra Behn's tragedy, Abdelazar, and in 1678 by an overture and masque for Shadwell's new version of Shakespeare's Timon of Athens.

The problem is this is completely contradicted by Holman and Thompson. "Henry Purcell (ii)," Grove Music Online which gives the following dates for these pieces:

  • Aureng-zebe 1694
  • Epsom Wells 1693
  • The Libertine 1695
  • Shadwell's version of Timon of Athens 1695
  • Abdelazar 1695

Note that the Grove dates are also the Zimmerman catalogue dates. The Britannica mistake may have come from assuming that the music was composed for the premieres of these works, when in fact, it appears to have been composed for later performances. I suspect the article is riddled with these sorts of inaccuracies. Voceditenore (talk) 14:54, 25 January 2010 (UTC)

Yes. that's the likely explanation. I'm planning to overhaul our coverage of Purcell in 2010, probably with the help of a couple of other editors, but you should change those dubious dates for now. Cheers. --Folantin (talk) 14:58, 25 January 2010 (UTC)
I've taken out the above passage entirely (leaving in only ...in 1676 he was appointed copyist at Westminster Abbey.) but anyone can put it back. It would have been too difficult to integrate it where it belongs (well after Dido and Aeneas) without rewriting that whole section on Later career and death which is also full of inaccuracies in light of modern research. Definitely time for a re-vamp. Acccording to Grove the only significant theatre music before Dido and Aeneas was Lee's Theodosius (1680) and D'Urfey's A Fool's Preferment (1688) plus one song each for The Sicilian Usurper (1680), Sir Barnaby Whigg (1681), The English Lawyer (1684–5), and Cuckold-Haven (1685). Voceditenore (talk) 15:23, 25 January 2010 (UTC)

Pronunciation[edit]

We seem to have a minor disagreement over pronunciation of his name (no surprise there -- I've heard it done several ways, and I listen to US and British announcers both). The current choices seem to be: pronounced /ˈpɜrsel/ or pronounced /ˈpɜrsəl/; the second is referenced. I've heard both. Comments? Include both? Include the referenced one only? Antandrus (talk) 01:04, 23 November 2010 (UTC)

The second. I don't see how it can be pronounced the first way: accent on 1st sylable AND "sel"? No way. I have not heard it other. Emdelrio (talk) 02:02, 23 November 2010 (UTC)

Sorry, I didn't even notice the accent. To the anon (86.--) -- did you perhaps mean to put the accent on the second syllable? That is alternate pronunciation I have sometimes heard. Antandrus (talk) 02:09, 23 November 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Emdelrio. I don't see how that pronunciation is possible. My copy of Percy Scholes' Oxford Companion to Music says Purcell should be "Pur-cell (not Pur-cell, as sometimes wrongly pron. in U.S.A.)". So Scholes agrees with the version we already have. I could try to dig out Jonathan Keates' bio and see what he says but I'm not sure where my copy is at the moment and I'm not sure it's worth the effort when we have two sources telling us to use what we already have. --Folantin (talk) 09:27, 23 November 2010 (UTC)
I've got the reference right in front of me (John C. Wells, Longman Pronunciation Dictionary p. 568-569. It's a very authoritative source, even if the article on John C. Wells is dire.) The source gives 'pɜsəl as the pronunciation in British English and 'pɜrsəl as the one in American English. Both are accented on the first syllable, the only difference being the /r/ used in the American pronuciation. He also gives a second pronunciation set as pɜ'sel (BE) and pɜr'sel (AE) with the accent on the second syllable in which case /ə//e/, but specifically states that the first set is the standard one used for the composer in BE and AE.
Note that the dictionary gives no preference to British over American pronunciations in terms of correctness, it simply states the standard pronunciation in each. So do with that what you will.
Frankly, I think these IPA renderings of the name in the lede are a bunch of clutter, useless to the vast majority of people who don't know the IPA. At most in a case like this it belongs in a footnote and both BE and AE renderings should be given. Purcell's nationality has nothing to do with it, and in any case, we have no idea how he pronounced his name, but I suspect he'd use the /r/. In the 17th century, almost all British accents were still rhotic, hence the "r" in the spelling. But who knows what syllable he accented? Better to stick with how it's pronounced today in BE and AE. Voceditenore (talk) 11:06, 23 November 2010 (UTC)
I've just found out what Keates says about "Purcell": "Stressed on the first syllable (the 'el', which picked up a doubling somewhere along the line, is simply a diminutive suffix), the word means 'little pig', porcel, not unlike the old name 'porcelet' given to the common woodlouse." (Jonathan Keates, Purcell: A Biography, Boston: Northeeastern University Press, page 13) --Folantin (talk) 11:19, 23 November 2010 (UTC)
Urban legend would have it that the second syllable accent dates to a 1950's TV ad campaign for Persil, a British soap. In any case, the Oxford Companion to Music is almost certainly wrong about its being a regionalism; a friend of mine quite recently heard it from a (British) guide at Westminister Abbey. To someone seeing it in print only, purCELL just seems more plausible: as a child I was shocked the first time I heard PURcell from a (Californian) adult. IIRC, there is a commemorative verse unambiguously showing the first syllable pronunciation at the time of his death. Sparafucil (talk) 00:11, 25 November 2010 (UTC)
    • ^ Cite error: The named reference Britannica1911 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).