Henry Purcell, born in 1659
, was an English composer, perhaps the first truly world-class composer
to come out of England
. Unlike many composers, he found great renown during his lifetime, earning particularly the respect of Queen Mary
, perhaps because many of his works were for voice and stage and thus more accessible than other classical works.
His works include one opera (The Fairy Queen, the story of Dido and Aeneas, supposedly written for a girl's school) and many shorter works for plays, dances, and informal events; several works for the harpsichord (he was an organist for several years in the Chapel Royal); various odes and other church music, and many secular works for one or two voices.
His best work in my opinion was Music on the Death of Queen Mary, a series of processions, anthems, laments, and a recession to honour his dear friend and beloved queen, who died in 1694. It starts with booming bass drums thundering and clear-toned trumpets sounding to wake the dead and begin the procession, and moves on to songs and pieces alternatingly joyous and mournful in gentle balance, and ends with a reprise in the recession. Oh, it is BEAUTIFUL! I'm not incredibly fond of his other works, but this one must be heard. Queen Mary's body was kept on ice for two months while this music was composed (and other arrangements made for such a high profile funeral, one supposes), and well worth it, I say. The music was played again at Purcell's own death only a year later in 1695.
rp: oh, c'mon. Ralph Vaughan Williams? Elgar? you just know more people have heard Pomp and Circumstance than The Fairy Queen.