Henry Purcell (1659-1695) was the last great English composer before the twentieth century. The program on this Ricercar CD performed by Lionel Meunier and Vox Luminis offers some of Purcell's most profound utterances, along with exquisite music by Thomas Morley (1557-1602) and Thomas Tomkins (1572-1656). The premise for this program of English funeral music fascinates without a note being heard.
William III and Mary of England were crowned king and queen in 1689 and while William was absent, busy waging wars, Mary governed the country. Henry Purcell served the queen during this time, for a period of five years, until she succumbed to small pox in 1694, just short of her 34th birthday. Vox Luminis and Les Trompettes des Plaisirs, a quartet performing on the short-lived flatt trumpet (or slide-trumpet) and bass drum, perform the music that was played for Queen Mary's procession, her funeral at Westminster Abbey, and internment.
One section of the service, The Funeral Sentences by Henry Purcell, is utterly heart-rending in the communion of sorrow and anguish, yet hope, that Purcell seems to express. There may be no more profound a communication in all the history of Western Music. Through colorful, sometimes stinging dissonance, the chromatic measured motion of the voices, and the subtle, fleeting appearances of a major mode, Purcell paints an image that only love and loss could inspire. You can listen to a section of this music in the audio sample provided, sublimely performed by Vox Luminis.
The music of Purcell to be heard here is as profoundly beautiful as anything from Bach, Mozart or Beethoven. If it is heard with a still mind and complete attention, one can scale the summit of possibilities that only great music can inspire.
We know now that Purcell's three Funeral Sentences were not written for the funeral of Queen Mary in 1695. Following the tradition of the English court, it was pieces by Thomas Morley, originally written for the funeral of Elizabeth I, that were sung there. Purcell's only contribution to the ceremony was the composition of two pieces for slide trumpets (March and Canzona), and the anthem in the archaic style Thou knowest, Lord. During the funeral procession to Westminster Abbey, a band of oboes played two marches written by John Paisible and Thomas Tollet. This recording assembles the music composed for the funeral of Queen Mary and that used at the funeral of Elizabeth I in 1603. The programme is completed by Purcell's sublime a cappella anthems and a moving anthem by Weelkes on the death of Thomas Morley. After the success of the recording of Schütz's Musicalische Exequien, voted Record of the Year by Gramophone magazine, this disc will be one of the major events of spring 2013.
Vox Luminis, founded in 2004 in Namur, Belgium, is an ensemble specialising in the performance of 16th – 18th century vocal music. The ensemble has been praised for its seamless blend of high quality individual voices, exquisite tuning and clarity of sound. Critics have also commented on the ensemble’s enthusiasm in sharing its passion for early music with an audience.
Lionel Meunier was born in France. He began his musical education in the music school of his town, Clamecy where he studied solfege, recorder and trumpet. Being passionated for music from his young age, he continued his studies in IMEP, Namur at the age of 18, where he gratuated with high distinction from recorder in 2004 as a student of Tatiana Babut du Mares.
Since 1991, we have pooled our talents and knowledge of antique brass, leading to the creation of the “Trumpets of Pleasures” nickname given to four trumpet attached to the particular service of the King of France in the Old Regime. Our goal is to give back to our instrument the place it deserves, both as stand-alone training Baroque Orchestra
Jean-François Madeaf, direction
Director: Benoît Laurent
Benoit Laurent studied recorder, modern oboe and baroque oboe in Belgium (with F. de Roos, P. Dombrecht, A. Vanlancker and S. Cremers), then he studied the baroque oboe in Germany with M. Niesemann In 2008 he got a second prize at the prestigious competition for early music “Musica Antiqua” in Bruges, in the category soloist.
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Henry Purcell: Funeral Sentence - "Man that born of a woman" Z. 27