9th Biennial Conference on Baroque Music


Works by 'Mr Purcell' - problems of authenticity

Mark Humphreys

A large amount of seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century music survives only in sources with anonymous or spurious attributions. The plethora of printed theatre songs published during this period, with their notoriously inexact attributions complicates this matter further. Similarly, some pieces of church music, transmitted via second- or third-hand sources, are often given incorrect authors.

Purcell scholars, in particular, have for years tried to remove from his canon much of the poorer music ascribed to him, often attributing it to Daniel Purcell, his brother, solely on the grounds of quality.

In an attempt to establish a reliable work-list for Daniel Purcell (and, indirectly, for Henry), his musical style has been studied, and the authorship of works erroneously attributed to other composers, or spuriously to Daniel himself, has been examined. By using a number of detailed musical examples and, importantly, looking at the sources in which they survive, differences in the authorship of certain works may be established.

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Last updated on 6 April 2000 by Yo Tomita