1 CD - 446 000-2 - (p) 1995


Henry PURCELL (1658-1695) Voluntary for Double Organ, Z 719 organ
5' 17" 1

Voluntary in G, Z 720
3' 42" 2
John BLOW (1649-1708) Voluntary in D minor (for the Cornet Stop) organ
5' 15" 3

Voluntary in A
1' 34" 4

Voluntary in G
3' 00" 5

Voluntary in D minor organ
3' 02" 6
Henry PURCELL Suite No. 4 in A minor, Z 663
6' 00" 7

A New Ground in E minor, Z T682 harpsichord
2' 26" 8

A New Irish Tune in G (Lilliburlero), Z 646
0' 45" 9

Riggadoon in C, Z 653 harpsichord
0' 49" 10

Sefauchi's Farewell, Z 656
1' 50" 11

Suite No. 2 in G minor, Z 661 harpsichord
8' 25" 12

Ground in C minor, Z 681 harpsichord
3' 29" 13

Ground in Gamut, Z 645
1' 43" 14

Suite No. 5 in C, Z 666 harpsichord
5' 48" 15

Hornpipe in E minor, Z T685 harpsichord
0' 44" 16

Suite of Lessons in C, Z 665: Jigg
1' 05" 17

Suite No. 7 in D minor, Z 668 harpsichord
6' 22" 18

Gustav LEONHARDT, Organ & Harpsichord

Luogo e data di registrazione
Grote Kerk, Hervormde Gemeente, Edam (The Netherlands) - Maggio 1994 (organ)
Doopsgezinde Gemeente, Haarlem (The Netherlands) - Maggio 1994 (harpsichord)

Registrazione: live / studio

Artist and reppertoire production

Stef Collignon

Recording producer
Hein Dekker

Balance engineers

Hein Dekker | Ko Witteveen

Recording engineer

Ko Witteveen

Tape editor

Hans Meijer

Art direction

Tom Fricsen

Prima Edizione LP

Edizione CD
Philips | LC 0305 | 446 000-2 | 1 CD - durata 62' 229" | (p) 1995 | DDD

Cover Art

Photo by Geert Kooiman


The keyboard music of Blow, Purcell and their English contemporaries forms a rich, varied and surprisingly large repertory. But it has suffered invidious comparison with the earlier English virginalist school and especially with the vast and consistently good work ofthe clavecinistes. Its reception has also been hampered because English performance practice is not as well understood as the French; there are no restorable late seventeenth-century English harpsichords to help us recreate the sound; and English organs, which never had pedal boards, lack the grandeur and mystique of continental instruments. Yet Blow’s organ works are sophisticated and often highly original, while Purcell’s harpsichord suites show a distinctive blend of French and English styles with unfailingly memorable tunes.
Unlike the French, English religious institutions did not encourage keyboard virtuosos. At the height of his career Blow casually resigned as organist of Westminster Abbey in favour of his pupil Purcell, reassuming the post when the younger man died in 1695. Despite Purcell’s responsibilities as a keyboard player (he was also one of the organists of the Chapel Royal), hardly any organ music by him survives. The 1nstrument’s chief role in the Anglican service was to accompany the anthem, any solo work being confined to short improvised interludes or “voluntaries.” It would appear that only the more contrapuntal of these were ever written down. None survives in Purcell’s own hand, and it is not certain that even the two very fine voluntaries on this recording are authentic Purcell, although that “for the double organ” in D minor bears his hallmark: the main theme is worked through a series of strict, contrapuntal variations alternating with toccata-like passages, one of which applies dissonance in Purcell's typically expressive manner.
Blow’s organ music, which is much more extensive and indisputedly authentic, can seem too academic and dry or, at the other extreme, rugged in its partwriting. The voluntaries selected here, however, are generally well behaved - tuneful and jolly, with few harmonic quirks; apart, that is, from the extraordinary Voluntary No. 18. This is built on relentlessly descending chromatic scales which produce wild, unorthodox progressions and false relations, shocking even by Blow’s usual teeth-grating standards. He is at his best when, as here, the rules of counterpoint are thrown to the winds.
Purcell clearly preferred the harpsichord to the organ; he composed ten suites after the French manner and dozens of smaller individual pieces and arrangements. This is music of high quality, but it lacks the polish and technical demands of Louis Couperin or D’Anglebert. Modern harpsichordists have therefore tended to treat Purcell’s harpsichord music as a nursery repertory. But its simplicity is deceptive, especially as regards rhythm. The discovery of an autograph manuscript of Purcell‘s harpsichord music in November 1993, which came too late to be reflected in this recording. will cause a reassessment of this aspect of his output. The manuscript shows that, while Purcell clearly regarded the harpsichord as a teaching instrument, he took this music very seriously indeed, polishing and revising it. For him, the suite was a flexible collection of three to five pieces. an almand and corant forming the core, with optional prelude, saraband (both fast and slow types). jig or hornpipe. The new manuscript also proves that Purcell made his own keyboard arrangements of songs and theatre pieces and that, conversely. some entr’actes for plays and semi-operas may have been conceived for the harpsichord and later scored for orchestra. Though neither piece is found in the keyboard autograph, both the New Ground (an arrangement of “Here the Deities Approve” from the 1683 St Cecilia’s Day ode) and the Ground in C minor (based on the countertenor air “With Him He Brings the Partner” from Ye tuneful Muses, a welcome ode for King James II) were undoubtedly made by Purcell himself. The melodies are copiously though tastefully ornamented, and the basso continuo written out in a curious, syncopated pattern fashionable at the time.
Among the other single pieces included here is A New Irish Tune, the famous Lilliburlero, which may actually have been composed by Purcell, though it was quickly taken up for broadside political songs (usually anti-Jacobite and thus anti-Irish); it retains these imperialistic overtones to this day as the signature tune of the BBC World Service. Sefauchi's Farewell, a wistful and beautifully balanced melody, refers to the castrato Giovanni Francesco Grossi (known as “Siface”), who sang in the Catholic Chapel of James II in the late 1680s. Since the chapel was effectively depriving Purcell of employment, this farewell may have been “good riddance.” As has often been remarked, the Ground in G is based on the same basso ostinato later used by Bach for the Goldberg Variations. In fact, the third section of the Purcell comes remarkably close to anticipating the Goldberg theme itself.
The three suites included on this recording do not suffer comparison with any superficially similar continental works, especially the almands and corants. Although indulging in the brisé or broken-chord style, Purcell concentrates on the melody, at least in the first strain of each piece; in the second he usually breaks appealingly into figuration, from which a new tune often emerges. Despite the formal constraints of binary dances in the style brisé, Purcell’s imagination is never fettered, his genius for melody never submerged under the weight of ornamentation. Nowhere is this freedom better heard than in the almand from the Suite No. 5 in C. The first strain is a routine, stately exposition, but the second expands majestically with a series of fresh ideas which are barely containable within the miniature structure. This notion seems to be confirmed by the newly discovered autograph, which is the working draft: Purcell miscalculated how much space this piece would require and was forced to complete it on a previous page. His characteristically bold, neat writing gives way to a scrawl, with ink splattered all over the page. Even within the detached and refined world of the French harpsichord suite, Purcell’s passion never cooled.
Curtis Price