1995 marked the 300th anniversary of the death of Purcell. HENRY was commissioned by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in acknowledgement of this anniversary.
I like Purcell’s music. I have listened to a fair bit and enjoy it tremendously. However, the commission to compose a piece specifically referring to his work required me to consider the relevance of his music to my own and how to utilise that in a piece written at the end of the 20th century.
I had a strong desire to avoid pastiche, for if that were the outcome I suggest we would all be better off listening to the original. I also wanted to avoid the musical routes which have become Purcell’s trade marks and have been well plundered in themselves.
So in composition I wished to work with those elements that I perceive in his music and have found important, such as the overwhelming sense of clarity, the simplicity of harmonic movement and the desire for strong unfussy shapes. Certainly there are direct references to his music (fragments from at least eight of his pieces are interwoven within HENRY) but it is these general factors set within the reverential character of the piece which I wished to convey.
The piece is in one movement and lasts for eleven minutes.