English music

Last night I went to a splendid concert of Purcell at Westminster Abbey – the church with which he was associated for much of his life (he lived just around the corner, too).  The highlight – taken slowly for the reverberant Abbey acoustic – was the 1692 St Cecilia Ode, ‘Hail Bright Cecilia’, reputedly the first time an English (or British) composer wrote for full baroque orchestra.   There was something very special about hearing Purcell’s music in a place where he worked so much, and by the successors of a group of musicians (the Abbey Choir) of which he was once a member.  There are details here.

This is Purcell weekend on Radio 3, marking the 350th anniversary of his death; Sunday, 22 November, is also St Cecilia’s Day.  The concert will be broadcast on Radio 3 at 6.30 pm on Sunday evening, and will then be available for a week through the ‘Listen Again’ facility.  It’s strongly recommended.



Filed under Culture, English questions

2 responses to “English music


    It’s entirely appropriate that someone who writes about devolution be interested in the Baroque: essential requirement for the job really.

    • In Devolution and Power in the United Kingdom, I wrote the following:

      [The way devolution was put in place made its establishment] much easier in the short term, and also made it much easier for devolution to ‘bed in’. However, its price has been to complicate yet further what were often highly complicated forms of administration and political management. I have used elsewhere the metaphor of baroque and rococo architecture for this. The structure of these arrangements was already ornate and highly detailed, but it had a clear form of distinction under which a simple, even elegant, original form was discernible. Devolution has added to the ornamentation, adding curlicue to curlicue, and creating yet more detail to the pattern. The problem is that this overwhelms the original form so it is no longer visible. What may have been elegant and even efficient once is not so any more.

      (p. 286).

      The successors to baroque architecture and music differ in this respect; rococo architecture was more ornate, while later musical styles such as the style galante were generally simpler; but there are some resemblances.

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