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JSC Rhapsody On A Theme By Purcell
Product Code: 4102000075
Comments by Kevin Norbury
In his relatively short lifetime, Henry Purcell (1659 — 1695) achieved stellar musical success and was known and admired internationally by his contemporaries. He is justifiably considered one of England's greatest composers.
I thought long and hard before using this magnificent theme as the basis for a band piece because I think that Benjamin Britten has said just about everything possible regarding it in his The young person's guide to the orchestra. Bearing this in mind, I tentatively set about working on this composition. Once started though, the job became fun because the theme still yielded possibilities - even after Britten!
The piece is basically a set of linked variations, much like Rachmaninov's great Rhapsody on theme by Paginini. The music starts slowly and makes much use of crisply dotted rhythms — a Purcellian characteristic. The theme is heard twice before the music changes into a jaunty duple time variation based on the opening motif of Purcell's them. After this, the mood changes to a waltz-like variation in which clear references to the original theme can be heard. The slow movement follows, and is based on rising and descending scalic figures. This variations is an 'A-B-A' movement with two similar passages framing a more vigorous middle section which features antiphonal fanfare-like figures. Without any preamble, the last variation launches itself — a rumbustious dance which has a distinctive feel to it.
The theme eventually reappears as a counter-melody to this dance music before a final triumphant treatment of the melody featuring a somewhat athletic bass line. The music accelerates at the Coda and disappears in a 'puff of smoke'.
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Produced by The Salvation Army, SP&S, UK