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What do you get a Queen for her birthday?
She's got more than she can wear.
Already wardrobes full.
Paintings? Two a penny.
In despair, how about this?
This is the glorious overture to an Ode for Queen Mary II's birthday,
written in 1694 by Henry Purcell.
It's the work of a man who received his musical education at court,
was paid by the court, and who, for most of his career,
composed very largely for the court.
It would be hard to imagine a narrower or more exclusive world
and yet, you know, it produced the greatest musical genius
ever to have been born on British soil.
In this series, I'm exploring how monarchy
has shaped the history of British music
and that story is never more dramatic than in the 17th century.
A battle raged about the religion and the power of kings,
which threatened not only the future of the monarchy
but the lives of musicians, and the whole tradition of English music.
And yet, in the midst of this upheaval, the monarchy presided over
a series of musical breakthroughs -
from the first chamber concerts and proto-operas,
to the triumphant debut of the baroque orchestra.
A faultline ran through the entire 17th century - religion.
It was the divide between the old faith and the new,
between Catholic and Protestant,
and, increasingly, between different kinds of Protestant.
In 1603, England lost Queen Elizabeth -
the monarch who had, for 44 years, kept some kind of peace.
Her successor had the potential to reopen all the wounds
of the religious schism.
The accession of King James VI of Scotland,
as James I of England, could have been revolutionary.
As a Scot, James was a foreigner.
He'd also been brought up in the Scottish Presbyterian Kirk,
which was much more radically Protestant
than the Church of England.
But the moment he crossed the border,
he embraced the splendour of the English court and the power
of his new role as a Supreme Head of the Church of England.
At the same time, he Anglicised musically.
He left behind, in Scotland, the musicians who'd served him hitherto,
and instead he took over complete, and as a going concern,
the Tudor Chapel Royal,
which included all the major composers of the day.
# Oh, clap your hands together
# Oh, clap your hands together
# Oh, clap your hands together
# Oh, clap your hands together
# Oh, clap your hands together
# All yea people
# All yea people... #
The very same year James came south, the author of this piece
and one of the greatest composers in English history
made his first appearance in royal records.
Orlando Gibbons was from humble but musical stock -
the son of a civic minstrel in Cambridge, whose talent had
won him a place as chorister, then student, at King's College.
He was barely 20 years old when he joined the most prestigious
musical institution in the land - the Chapel Royal.
This was the monarchy's personal choir, which had a home at each
of the King's palaces and which sang at all the great occasions of state.
# God is gone up with a merry noise
# And the Lord with the sound of the trump
# God is gone up with a merry noise... #
Gibbons brought a new energy and directness to sacred music.
His choral works are still sung in the Church of England today.
In his own lifetime, however,
Gibbons was still more prized as a keyboard player
and as the composer of ground-breaking instrumental music.
This he created not, primarily, for the King
but for his heir, Prince Charles.
This was the kind of music for which Charles had a particular fondness.
It's an example of an English musical invention -
the fantasia suite.
As Prince of Wales, Charles had his own royal household
and that allowed him to build a musical establishment of his own.
It was second in size only to the King's
but it served a very different purpose.
The King's music made the music of state,
the Prince's band the music of pleasure.
So, it featured new composers like Orlando Gibbons,
who worked directly for Prince Charles,
in addition to his Chapel Royal duties.
And it also made new kinds of music.
This instrument, the viol, was a particular favourite of the English
in the 17th century and it's what Charles himself played rather well.
In earlier centuries, instrumental music had been seen as little more
than a hobby for amateurs or something to dance to.
Charles, unusually for the time, took non-vocal music seriously
and, as well as performing,
would listen with the appreciation of a true connoisseur.
'I think this was the beginnings of the musical concert'
but, of course, it wasn't just to anybody,
it was a very specific...
It would be a tiny circle around the King or the Prince and this,
-this is household or indeed, literally, chamber music.
The Gibbons we've just heard, for example,
is very intricate music, very subtle...
Barely a melody!
Yeah, there was something, sort of, avant-garde going on there.
Something forging new ways of, of doing this music.
For example, the opening of the Gibbons,
we have this extraordinary soundscape
where these very close dissonances are piled one on top of the other,
so that there seems to be no relief from them.
You don't feel that there's any relaxation coming.
On the one hand there is this searching emotion,
on the other there's a quite extraordinary technical complexity.
I mean, music at this point
is considered a high academic subject, isn't it?
Mm, and music is often regarded as a science
rather than an art at this point.
Revealing the underlying harmony of the universe is, in some ways,
the business of the, of the composer.
Throughout his life, Charles yearned for this harmony,
elegance and order -
not just in art but in his faith, and, he was determined, in his rule.
His Coronation, on 2nd February 1626,
is the first where we know who wrote the music.
Orlando Gibbons had died the previous year,
so the role was taken by the Welsh composer Thomas Tomkins.
# O Lord
# O Lord
# Grant the King a long life
# Grant the King a long life... #
This is probably the oldest surviving anthem,
written specifically for a coronation,
sung here, as it would have been four centuries ago,
by the choir of Westminster Abbey.
Tomkins' work has none of the pomp of later coronation music
by Purcell, Handel or Parry.
At this time, trumpets and drums were not deemed appropriate
for the sacred part of the rite.
# He shall dwell before God for ever
# For ever
# Lord prepare thy loving mercy and faith... #
What the anthems do is take an individual action, like the action
of anointing, and they lift it out of merely the context of Westminster
on this day, and they place it on a kind of celestial scale.
It becomes part of not simply the theatre of an individual monarch,
but it becomes part of a divine theatre, a power and authority,
in which the king on earth becomes assimilated to the King in heaven.
# So will we always sing praise unto thy name
# So will we always sing praise unto thy name
# So will we always sing praise unto thy name
# That I may daily perform my vows
# That I may daily perform... #
The music, like all aspects of the ceremony,
confirmed, for Charles, the Divine Right of his royal rule -
a belief he held more passionately and inflexibly
than any of his ancestors.
The Coronation also confirmed the value of the cleric who would
become his chief adviser, as well as head of the Chapel Royal
and, in time, Archbishop of Canterbury - William Laud.
Laud acted as Master of Ecclesiastical Ceremonies.
He took the King through the first ever coronation rehearsal
and, on the day itself, he arranged signals
to cue the choirs when to come in.
The result was that the five-hour ceremony passed
with scarcely a hitch.
It also suggested to Charles that Laud's managerial talents
could be deployed on a bigger stage.
The King wanted the solemnity, elaboration
and beauty of the service which Laud had orchestrated at the Abbey
to be the model for the whole nation.
Charles decreed that England's churches
should be like the chapels in his palaces, such as Hampton Court.
This was the Monarch's personal religious space known,
just like the choir which sang here, as the Chapel Royal.
And when Charles came to worship here,
he would have felt the presence of his predecessors.
He found the fabric of the interior
pretty much as Henry VIII had left it.
Similarly, the worship, liturgy and magnificent musical traditions of
the Chapel still owed everything to Henry VIII's daughter, Elizabeth I.
In most churches, ornate beauty such as this had been
destroyed by the Protestant Reformation.
The King's subjects generally worshipped
in far more austere surroundings.
Now, Charles I with his love of order,
beauty and uniformity was determined to go the whole hog
and make the Chapel Royal, hitherto the exception, the rule.
With Laud as his eager enforcer, the King decreed that churches
in England should re-establish the symbols and practices of the past.
Charles felt that this was entirely compatible with being Protestant,
but to the most devout of his subjects, the Puritans,
the changes looked like a return to Catholicism.
And music like this, by Thomas Tomkins,
sounded like a return to Catholicism.
It's being played on an instrument built during Charles' reign
and found today in Tewkesbury Abbey.
Nowadays we think of organs
as the most traditional form of church music.
But in the reign of Charles I,
organs and indeed church music itself
were profoundly controversial.
This is because church music lay at the heart of the Revolution
which Laud and King Charles I were determined to impose
on the Church of England.
They called it "the beauty of holiness".
By this they meant that God should be worshipped not only in words
and by the mind, but also through the senses,
by sight, through stained glass and painting,
and, above all, by hearing, through music.
MAJESTIC ORGAN MUSIC
Under Laud's direction,
a multitude of grand new organs were built to replace the many
which had been removed or silenced by the Protestant Reformation.
The best, like this one,
were built by a Lancashire father and son, the Dallams.
For Laudians, music like this made a joyful sound unto the Lord.
For Puritans, though, it was a mere obstructive noise.
One of them thundered against, "The horrible profanation
"of both the sacraments with all manner of music,
"both instrumental and vocal,
"so loud that the Minister could not be heard."
The organ wars would eventually be fought on a national scale.
Laudians versus Puritans, high church versus low church,
Royalists versus Parliament, Cavaliers versus Roundheads.
And yet, whatever the discord in his wider kingdom,
the art of his court presented Charles
with a vision of perfect harmony.
Here, at the Whitehall Banqueting House,
the King and his Queen, Henrietta Maria,
presided over the greatest musical occasions of his reign.
Court masques were the multimedia spectaculars of the day, a mixture
of music and poetry, singing, dancing, comedy, and fashion show.
Perhaps the most spectacular and certainly the most expensive was
The Triumph of Peace, staged here before the King and Queen, in 1634.
It cost a staggering £21,000,
that's to say several tens of millions of pounds in today's money.
MALE SOLO VOCAL
The music was the work of a rising new talent
at the court of Charles I.
A dashing blade called William Lawes,
who would turn out to be as handy with the sword as with the bow.
SINGING IN BAROQUE STYLE
This song by Lawes from the Triumph of Peace
has rarely been performed since 1634.
THEY SING IN UNISON
It sounds rather like opera.
The masque however,
had been developing at the English court since Tudor times.
And until the 18th century was preferred here
to its Italian relative.
But masques were more than mere entertainments.
They acted as allegories
of how monarchy brings harmony to the whole world.
As did the great painting, by Peter Paul Rubens,
which Charles commissioned for the banqueting house ceiling.
Rubens' ceiling is the perfect representation of divine
right monarchy in which the King, like God,
in whose image he is made, rules by reason, law and order.
Outside the court, however,
there were people who felt that the monarchy
fell far short of this ideal,
and that the masque itself was an example of royal corruption.
For Puritans, masques were sinful.
One, William Prynne, unwisely went into print with his criticisms.
Prynne's 1,000 page diatribe called actresses "notorious whores",
just at the time when, in an astonishing development,
the Queen herself had appeared in a speaking part on the stage.
Archbishop Laud, who had a well reciprocated
loathing for Prynne, denounced the work as "an infamous treason",
and had Prynne hauled before the Star Chamber.
There, he was condemned to a huge fine, to stand in the pillory,
to have both his ears cut off and to be imprisoned for life.
Charles took the same perfectionist approach to politics as he did
to his patronage of the arts.
Opposition was like an ugly picture, or a wrong note.
He would not tolerate it.
By the late 1630s,
Charles' relations with Parliament had broken down.
The elegant fictions of court culture broke with them.
In this atmosphere, William Lawes wrote music which reflected
the disintegration of the old order.
SOLEMN MUSIC PLAYS
It's difficult to avoid the feeling
that there is something about Lawes' own personal experience...
-Yes, broken times, indeed.
I'll be quite truthful, before I did this series
-I'd never heard of William Lawes.
And, at the same time listening to the music, it is extraordinary.
It's unlike anything else, isn't it? And I think...
A little bit of me says, "Thank God!"
-It is very strange.
-It's very, very strange.
The first time... you ask any viol player,
they'll tell you the first time they played Lawes
is like coming across late Beethoven for the first time.
you feel like you're breathing the air from other planets.
Lawes could have become one of the greatest composers of English music.
But in 1642, his career was halted
when civil war finally began in earnest.
William Lawes, passionately loyal to his royal master, was amongst
the very few royal musicians who signed up for the King's Army.
There was an attempt made to protect him
from the worst risks of war, by making him a provisioning officer.
But Lawes, as daring in life as in his music,
was killed at the Siege of Chester in 1645.
Charles, who'd lost his own cousin in the same action,
nevertheless ordered special mourning for the man that he
called the "Father of Musick".
Amid the outpouring of grief,
a fellow Cavalier poet wrote a bitter, punning epitaph.
"Will Lawes was slain by those whose wills were laws."
Royal music now took on a very different character.
As the King's men went into battle, this is what they heard.
Charles, punctilious as ever,
insisted that a standardised drum march was used by his forces.
In vain, by 1644 his Puritan opponents were clearly winning.
And wherever they gained control,
church music became a casualty of war.
Take the sad fate of Thomas Tomkins.
Since the start of the 17th century,
he'd combined his duties at the Chapel Royal with
the job of organist and choirmaster at Worcester Cathedral.
In September 1642, Parliamentary troops
burst into the Cathedral and desecrated it.
But this wasn't the random violence of rampaging soldiers.
Instead, it was a carefully targeted attack on the symbols
of the beauty of holiness most offensive to the Puritans.
So the troops smashed the stained glass, they pissed in the font,
because they thought the use of the sign of cross in Baptism was Popish.
And they silenced Tomkins's beloved organ by ripping off the pipes.
These scenes were repeated across the country.
The attempts, by Charles and Laud, to revive the older traditions
and music of worship, were systematically undone.
Then Tomkins's study, at the top of his house here,
where he kept his musical manuscripts, was hit by cannonballs
fired during the parliamentary bombardment of the city.
Tomkins had faithfully served his King and his Church.
Now, in his 70s, he saw everything that he had lived for
and worked for destroyed.
CHURCH ORGAN PLAYS
The court's vast musical establishment,
by far the best in the land, had been disbanded.
Its talent destroyed.
The Chapel Royal ceased to exist.
And so, in time, did the monarchy itself.
On the 30th January 1649,
King Charles returned to the Banqueting House,
where previously he had savoured the finest music,
to be beheaded on a scaffold built outside.
Within a fortnight, Thomas Tomkins wrote this piece, which he
entitled "a sad pavan for these distracted times".
25 years after writing music for the King's Coronation,
he'd now written his funeral dirge.
Most organs had been destroyed during the civil war
But one that survived was the magnificent Dallam organ,
in its original home at Magdalen College Oxford.
In 1654 it too was taken down, but it wasn't destroyed like the rest.
Instead it was carefully dismantled
and re-erected at Hampton Court Palace, which had just been given to
Oliver Cromwell, now Lord Protector of England, as his summer residence.
Wasn't the Puritan Lord Protector supposed to hate music?
Well, he did and he didn't.
He hated music in Church, but he loved it when he dined or
when he relaxed.
So we can imagine Cromwell listening to this organ,
as it was played at Hampton Court by his Latin secretary,
fellow Puritan, poet and musician, John Milton.
Which is why, centuries later,
this instrument is known as the Milton organ.
MILITARY PIPE BAND PLAYS "THE KING ENJOYS HIS OWN AGAIN"
During the years of Cromwellian rule,
Charles I's son lived in exile on the Continent.
His supporters rallied round this song.
And after Cromwell's death in 1658,
Parliament did indeed invite the King to return.
With Charles II came the revival of sacred music which the
Puritans had fought so hard against.
MUSIC: "Zadok the Priest"
# Zadok the Priest
# And Nathan the Prophet # Anointed Solomon King... #
When the new King was crowned on St George's Day, 1661,
amongst the music composed for the occasion was
a piece by Henry Lawes, brother of the slain William.
It was a text heard at Coronations since Anglo-Saxon times,
and still in use today, though, for the last three centuries,
known in its magnificent setting by Handel.
# Hallelujah Hallelujah
# Hallelujah Hallelujah
# Hallelujah... #
Musically, the coronation of Charles II was a case of new
wine in old bottles.
The music, like Henry Lawes' Zadok the Priest, was new
and by a new generation of composers.
But everything else was old, or tried to be.
So, the same order of service was used, and the same anthems
were sung, as at the Coronation of Charles I in 1626.
The Coronation regalia, the crown, the orb, the sceptre, which
had all been destroyed during the Commonwealth, were remade,
given their own names, and used in the traditional time-honoured way.
Even the singing was led, as in the old days,
by the choir of the Chapel Royal.
But, since the last boy treble,
who had sung before King Charles I, was now a man of 30,
the choir of the Chapel Royal had to be reconstructed from scratch.
# But upon himself
# Let his crown flourish... #
At the Coronation, the new choristers were still
so young and untrained that their voices had to be reinforced by
men singing falsetto, and were at times drowned out by loud cornets.
And yet, from this revived Chapel Royal would come all the
leading composers of the next few decades, among them Pelham Humfrey,
John Blow, and, within a few years, the greatest of them all.
# Hallelujah. #
Henry Purcell was born in 1659,
the year before the monarchy was restored.
Both his father and his uncle were at the heart of the new
regime's musical establishment, working at Westminster Abbey
and the Chapel Royal.
And very soon, Henry joined them.
From the age of about seven, the young Henry Purcell was
singing for Charles II in the Chapel Royal here at Hampton Court,
or wherever else the King happened to be in residence.
By the time that he joined the choir,
the Chapel Royal had recovered all its former glory.
This meant, as for the last three centuries, that Purcell was
now a pupil in by far the best music school in the kingdom.
# My soul does magnify the Lord... #
As a choirboy, he learned to read music at sight,
to perform confidently on the grandest occasions,
and also to play and improvise on keyboard instruments,
which gave him an insight into the basic principles of composition.
"Some of the forwardest and brightest
"children of the Chapel began to be masters of composing.
"This His Majesty greatly encouraged,
"by indulging their youthful fancies,
"so that every month at least, they produced something new.
"Otherwise, it was in vain to hope to please His Majesty."
When his voice broke,
he became a kind of apprentice to the senior musicians
of the Chapel Royal, who included the best composers of the day.
He transcribed, edited
and arranged their music. He also began to compose seriously himself.
As well as absorbing the glorious English choral tradition,
Purcell's musical imagination would be influenced by another
aspect of his King's tastes.
Though in most respects Charles restored
the customs of his father's court, he was known to utterly detest
the kind of serious chamber music that Charles I had loved.
So out went esoteric viol fantasias.
In came revelry and rhythm to entertain the 'Merry Monarch'.
"He could not bear any music to which he could not keep the time,
"and that he constantly did to all that was presented to him."
What he wanted to do, he wanted to sit back, tap,
listen to a jolly good tune and have a good dance - it's a
completely different approach.
But that's also a public approach.
This is music as part of pleasure.
For Charles I, I'm sure it was a pleasure also,
but it was a much more intellectual, refined pleasure.
Refinement is not a word that springs to mind with Charles II.
In exile during the years of Cromwell's republic,
Charles had spent a lot of time with his wealthy,
autocratic cousin, Louis XIV.
At the French court he saw grand opera-ballet, learned new
and fashionable dances, and heard the band of 24 violinists,
drilled by the great Jean Baptiste Lully.
When Charles returned to England, he brought back French tastes,
French fashions, and a determination to have exactly
the same number of violinists himself.
This was a crucial step on the road to the orchestra.
Violins are the foundation of orchestral sound to this day.
Charles loved their sound so much he even wanted to hear them
in his Chapel Royal.
His royal taste led to a unique English form which
Henry Purcell would make his own.
The "symphony anthem" alternates rich string segments with
sung sacred texts.
# Rejoice in the Lord alway And again
# I say rejoice Rejoice in the Lord alway
# And again I say rejoice. #
Not everyone approved of this new approach to Church music.
The diarist John Evelyn grumbled.
"24 violins after the French fantastical light way!
"Better suited to a tavern or a playhouse than a church."
Only a few years before,
even the sound of an organ in church had been controversial.
Now, Charles was rolling back the boundaries of musical taste, just as
Purcell was expanding the creative possibilities of musical form.
# Be careful for nothing But in every thing
# By prayer and supplication With thanksgiving
# Let your requests be... #
There's an operatic quality to the music Purcell
writes for the soloists. He was clearly paying attention to
developments in Italy at the time.
# By prayer and supplication With thanksgiving
# Let your requests Be made known unto God. #
But he was also writing here for the specific voices of the Chapel Royal.
With the Restoration, female singers had begun to perform on stage
and even at court, but the Chapel was still a male preserve.
So Purcell wrote the top line here for a counter-tenor.
# Through Jesus Christ, our Lord
# Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. #
Purcell made fair copies of his sacred anthems into this
scorebook here, in his own handwriting.
But Purcell didn't only write sacred music.
Turn the book over, like this, and we find from the other end,
a similar record of the secular music that he
composed for the court of Charles II.
These are odes to mark royal birthdays, weddings,
military victories and peace treaties.
# Welcome! Welcome! Vicegerent of the Mighty King
# That made and governs everything. #
This is one of Purcell's welcome odes, written for the annual
occasion of the King's return to London from the country.
Why on Earth welcome the King back to his own capital,
and moreover do it over and over again, at the same time each year?
Partly, it was sycophantic nonsense.
The court followed the same routine every year,
with the summer at Windsor and the winters in London.
The odes here gave a ceremonial shape to the year, just as,
once upon a time, the Church's calendar had done before the Reformation.
One of the reasons why Purcell isn't listened to as often now as
he should be is that his genius was poured into this kind of occasional
royal piece which teeters on the verge of absurdity today.
The welcome ode to Charles, you sung it with an admirably
straight face and as though you actually believed it.
Do you simply go into a state of suspension on the words?
Well, I think you have to kind of sing what you've been given.
But it's set very well, it's very easy to understand.
-However clumsy the words...
-..they're still made to work.
Purcell's very good at making the music move with what the
words are doing. He makes it clear what he's trying to say.
I'm relatively confident that he had a jolly good sense of humour.
I think there's an, an amount of tongue-in-cheekness going on, certainly.
Whatever Purcell thought of the odes,
there's no doubt that the King would have approved.
He's addressed at one point as "our mortal deity".
Charles, like his father, believed he ruled by divine right, but
he was at least politically shrewd enough not to press the point home.
And then he's succeeded by a king who has absolutely no
sense of political reality whatever.
Though Charles fathered many, many children, none of them
were by his Queen, so none were legitimate heirs.
When he died in 1685, the throne passed instead to his brother,
James, who would reopen the wounds of the religious divide once more.
Because James had, scandalously and publicly,
converted to Catholicism a few years previously.
Fears of what this meant were initially vanquished by James'
Purcell, of course, wrote the music.
His genius is such that he produces music which immediately
raises the musical game of the coronation service.
For example, My Heart Is Inditing starts in a very dense way, there's a seven-part vocal group...
# My heart is inditing My heart is inditing
And the vocal parts start one at a time,
singing the words after each other.
# My heart is inditing My heart is inditing
So, you build up the texture, so it sounds like a very busy, colourful tapestry.
There was this sense of trying to achieve, in a way,
a pictorial idea of what the Coronation is.
Purcell's anthem is the best music yet performed at a Coronation.
It's also on much the largest scale.
The words are new and there'd never even been an anthem at this
point in the service, the Coronation of the Queen, before.
Why all the fuss now?
# She shall be brought unto The King in raiment of needlework
# She shall be brought... #
The answer lies in what was left out.
The Coronation of the Queen, which was simpler and far shorter than
that of the King, normally followed on the Coronation Communion service.
But in 1685, both the King, James II,
and the Queen, Mary of Modena, were Roman Catholics,
and absolutely refused to take the Protestant Communion.
The omission of the Communion service left a gaping hole
spiritually and musically at the heart of the service, which the
splendours of Purcell's music were almost certainly designed to fill.
# With joy and gladness... #
Though Purcell successfully diverted
attention from James' Catholicism at the Coronation,
the new King's faith was harder to ignore once his reign was under way.
Things could have been very different if
James had had only a modicum more political skill, perhaps,
can one put it differently, had been even moderately dishonest!
Rather than a, you know, a determined Catholic convert.
But James believed he had been chosen by God to lead
the whole nation back to the Catholic faith.
The result, within three years, was open rebellion.
The rebels sang a popular song of the day which lampooned
the hopes of Catholics, complete with the mocking cod-"Oirish" lyrics.
# Lillibullero, bullen a la
# Lillibullero, bullen a la. #
It became the popular rallying cry against King James II.
"The whole army, and the people, both in city and country,
"were singing it perpetually."
# Bullen a la. #
It's only a song, but it sang King James II out of three kingdoms.
In 1688, James was deposed by his own daughter Mary,
and her husband, William of Orange, who invaded from the Netherlands,
at the invitation of James' leading subjects.
William and Mary were Protestants, and so, forever more,
was to be Britain's monarchy.
It was known as the Glorious Revolution
and it changed the meaning of monarchy, and its music, forever.
William and Mary were crowned the following April.
But this was to be a very different service from any
of its predecessors.
The preacher at the Coronation rejoiced in the fact
that in 1688, the English had chosen the happy,
middle-way between the anarchical despotism of France on the one
hand, and the Republican chaos and disorder of the English Commonwealth on the other hand.
He was roundly applauded by the audience.
The political atmosphere was further heightened by the presence,
for the first time, of MPs.
This was the inaugural event of a limited parliamentary monarchy.
Divine right was dead
and the sacredness of kings very nearly died with it.
But if the Coronation was no longer a sacred rite,
which consecrated a priest-king, what point was
there in Purcell writing sublime music for the occasion?
# Praise the Lord
# Praise the Lord O Jerusalem
"Praise the Lord O Jerusalem" seems rather...
..austere. It starts in the minor key, which is
an unusual choice of a composer for a praising psalm.
It's written in a more intimate way
and a less obviously jolly, flamboyant way.
# For kings shall be Thy nursing fathers... #
The texts chosen reflect the changed circumstances -
the Queen is given equal weight with the King.
# For Queens shall be # Thy nursing mothers... #
But Queen Mary thought the Coronation "all vanity",
King William thought it "a Popish absurdity".
Purcell's music no longer had any raison d'etre.
Without wishing in any way to denigrate the music,
it sounds less expensive than
music of "My Heart Is Inditing" of a few years earlier.
It's saying this is a little bit more pared down,
it's less ostentatious, it's a little bit more sombre.
At previous coronations, music had acted to sanctify the monarchy.
From now on, that's not what composers would be required
to do in the Abbey, or anywhere else.
William and Mary largely withdrew from the traditional
centre of music and monarchy, the Palace of Whitehall,
and came instead to Hampton Court, which they
commissioned Christopher Wren to rebuild.
It was a case of out with the old and in with the new.
Out went the opulent private apartments of Henry VIII
and his queens, in came William III's plain-Jane baroque.
Sober, practical, modern. A bit like William III himself.
As for music, whether sacred or secular, he was indifferent,
if not actually hostile.
Nothing escaped William's reforming zeal. Not the fabric,
the liturgy, or the musical traditions of the Chapel Royal.
Having survived both reformation and revolution, all of these were
to be shipwrecked on the rock of William III's religious principles.
For William, as a committed, lifelong Calvinist,
was a Protestant of the most thorough-going sort.
This meant that he thought many, if not most, of the rituals
of the Chapel Royal were Popish, idolatrous survivals of the worst sort.
The elaborate and theatrical music of the Chapel Royal,
always a Protestant bugbear,
was struck down, when, as one of their first acts,
William and Mary forbad the use of strings here in the Chapel Royal.
It sounds so little, but it destroyed so much.
The glorious and quintessentially English symphony anthem
died a strange and sudden death.
But, most striking of all was the effect
on the Chapel Royal itself, which changed from
a hothouse of creativity, to the merest backwater, almost overnight.
Purcell, the great symphony anthem composer,
found himself neglected.
But he did still have one royal commission -
writing the annual birthday ode for Queen Mary.
His composition for 1690 represented the culmination
of a century of instrumental innovation at court.
From Charles I's chamber concerts,
through Charles II's 24 violins, to this -
A full Baroque orchestra!
"Arise my Muse", suddenly you have everything there,
you have the trumpets, the oboes, the violins,
and Purcell doesn't allow the trumpets to just play simple parts.
They play pretty much the same kind of material
that the violins are playing, so they were incredibly virtuosic.
And also the oboes, it's a quite a strange new animal
which came into the orchestra at this time.
It's extraordinary the way he can combine those instruments,
the way he orchestrates those instruments.
It's unbelievably skilful and colourful use of an orchestra.
And yet, just two days after Arise My Muse was first performed,
William III ordered the Lord Chamberlain
to slash the number of royal musicians by a third.
Court music, brought to such heights by Charles I and Charles II,
went the same way as the Chapel Royal -
downsized, neglected, now used merely for the odd ball.
Purcell was forced to take his genius elsewhere
and the orchestra went with him.
The work of both would henceforth be enjoyed
by a rather broader audience than the exclusive world of the court.
This was to be Purcell's principal habitat
for the remainder of his career.
Up to the Glorious Revolution, Purcell had been a court composer,
but now that William III's austere Protestantism
declared that Purcell's luscious, orchestrally-accompanied music
was too theatrical for the Chapel Royal,
Purcell turned to the theatre proper.
And henceforward wrote almost exclusively for the London stage.
But one thing didn't change, however - Purcell's staggering productivity.
In the course of the next five years
he wrote music for over 40 stage plays.
Purcell even wrote one of the very first English operas,
Dido and Anaeas, though it was scarcely performed in his lifetime.
Restoration audiences instead preferred
spectacular romps like King Arthur.
# The pleasures of love
# No joys are above the pleasures of love
# No joys, no joys, no joys, no joys, no joys,
# No joys are above
# Love, love, love, no joys are above
# The pleasures, the pleasures, the pleasures of love. #
Despite Purcell's resounding success in the theatre
there's a sense of loss, of exile.
Purcell was no longer in demand
in the court that had nourished his genius.
His principle librettist, John Dryden, had actually been dismissed
from his royal post of Poet Laureate.
Even the form of the dramatic opera with its lavish combination
of music, words, dance and spectacle was a descendant
in exile of the court masques of Charles I's reign.
And all of them, composer, librettist, dramatic opera,
were on the London stage only because they were unwanted
at the new court of the Glorious Revolution.
But then English music suffered a still more grievous blow.
Purcell died, at the - even then - shockingly early age of 36.
At the start of 1695, he'd written this music
to mourn the premature passing of Queen Mary.
Before the year was out, it was played at his own funeral.
That flat, hollow sound - it's the majesty, and the finality, of death.
It is no exaggeration to say that English music died with Purcell.
He was the last composer in the great Chapel Royal tradition
which had stretched back through Orlando Gibbons
to Thomas Tallis, to John Dunstable and even beyond.
But where, now, was capable of producing a successor?
The great tragedy of England is that nobody steps into the gap
as far as music is concerned.
Once for the religio-political reasons of 1688-89,
the Chapel Royal is shuttered down, nothing steps into the gap.
It leaves England with an appetite for music,
but with no musical infrastructure to provide it.
Audiences continued to pack out London's theatres.
But Purcell's death left a vacuum of native talent.
HE SINGS A PIECE BY HANDEL, IN CASTRATI VOICE
And so, as I'll explore next time,
the London stage was invaded by Italian opera.
Foreign composers, foreign stars, performing in a foreign language.
Paradoxically, this happened just at the same time
that Britain became THE great power in Europe.
And more ironically still, the composer who restored
the fortunes of music made in Britain was German - Georg Handel.
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