9th Biennial Conference on Baroque Music


An Unknown Purcell Suite at Yale

Robert Shay

In a 1978 article in Notes, Robert Ford identified several potentially important Purcell sources in the Filmer collection at Yale University, which was ‘purchased intact from the Kentish estate of the last Baronet Filmer in 1945’. The thirty-seven music manuscripts in the collection (mostly dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) suggest that a lively musical culture existed in the homes of the prominent seventeenth-century Filmers and their heirs.

My recent examination of the Filmer collection has served to confirm a number of Ford’s comments, which have not received much attention. The present paper is concerned with one manuscript, the instrumental partbook Filmer 8, which contains the basses of several instrumental movements ascribed to Purcell, as Ford noted, ‘not known elsewhere’. These movements can now be identified as Purcell’s Overture in G Minor (known previously through a single source, the copy in John Reading’s hand in British Library R.M. 20.h.9), followed by five unique dances (a triple-time rondo, a bourree, two further triple-time movements and a ‘jigg’), forming a suite, in G minor throughout, with an overall ascription to Purcell.

Manuscript and musical evidence undergirds the authenticity of these unknown movements and sheds some much-needed light on the Overture in G Minor, a work which has elicited some disagreement in terms of its placement in Purcell’s career. The resulting suite, unfortunately missing its upper parts, bears some points of resemblance to Purcell’s Suite in G Major in British Library Add. MS 30930, and the two works may share similar origins.

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Last updated on 22 March 2000 by Yo Tomita