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Masque after “Dioclesian”

Composed by Henry Purcell

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Masque after “Dioclesian”

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Henry Purcell (1659-1695) is generally considered to be one of the greatest English composers. He incorporated Italian and French stylistic elements into his compositions, written during the Baroque period. Henry Purcell's family lived just a few hundred yards west of Westminster Abbey. Henry Purcell Senior was a gentleman of the Chapel Royal and sang at the coronation of King Charles II of England. Purcell is said to have been composing at nine years old. Purcell died in 1695 at his home in Dean's Yard, Westminster, at the height of his career. He is believed to have been 35 or 36 years old at the time. The cause of his death is unclear: one theory is that he caught a chill after returning home late from the theatre one night; another is that he died of tuberculosis. Purcell is buried adjacent to the organ in Westminster Abbey. The music that he had earlier composed for Queen Mary's funeral was performed during his funeral. In 1691, he wrote the music for what is sometimes considered his dramatic masterpiece, “King Arthur”. One year later, he composed “The Fairy-Queen” based on Shakespeare's “A Midsummer Night's Dream”, the score of which was rediscovered in 1901. “The Indian Queen” followed in 1695. Purcell also had a strong influence on English composers of the mid 20th century, most notably Benjamin Britten, whose "The Young Person's Guide" to the Orchestra is based on the Rondeau from Purcell's “Abdelazar”. Dioclesian Dioclesian or The Prophetess is a tragicomic semi-opera in five acts by Henry Purcell to a libretto by Thomas Betterton based on the play The Prophetess by John Fletcher and Philip Massinger, which in turn was based very loosely on the life of the Emperor Diocletian. It was premiered in late May 1690 at the Queen's Theatre, Dorset Garden with choreography for the various dances provided by Josias Priest, who worked with Purcell on several other semi-operas. Thomas Betterton reworked the play extensively, making room for a great deal of Purcell's music, notably in the 'monster' scene at the end of Act II and the final Masque about the victory of Love, which remained popular until well into the eighteenth century. The story is ostensibly about the struggle for power in Ancient Rome, but actually about the universal struggle between love and duty. Delphia, a prophetess, foretells that Diocles, a footsoldier, will become emperor after he kills a "mighty boar" and marry Delphia's niece Drusilla, who is in love with him. Diocles takes the prophecy seriously, and starts slaughtering pigs. As it turns out, around the same time a soldier called Volutius Aper has murdered the old emperor, and Diocles kills Aper in revenge. As a reward for this action he is made co-emperor and renames himself Dioclesian. He ignores his promise to marry Drusilla, and courts his co-emperor's sister the princess Aurelia instead. This angers Delphia, who brings the wedding ceremony to a stop by conjuring a storm and a monster. She then causes the princess to fall in love with Diocles' rival Maximinian, and the Persians to defeat the Roman army. Diocles realises the error of his ways, routs the invaders, cedes his half of the throne to Maximinian, and moves to Lombardy with Drusilla.

Arranged by Christopher Houlding

An original arrangement for Superbrass.

Duration: 5:00 Minutes

4 Trumpets
1 Horn in F
4 Trombones
1 Tuba
2 Percussion

Trumpet 1 and Trombone 1 require improvising skills.
Percussion section requires: Timpani and Bongos.