Purcell, Handel & Literature


The conference programme is now available from this link. The original call for papers follows.



Purcell, Handel & Literature

Senate House, University of London

Friday and Saturday, 19-21 November 2009

Institutes of Musical Research and English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London. The Music and English Departments of the Open University in association with the OU Literature and Music Research Group. The Handel Institute. The Purcell Society. This conference will be one of the concluding events in the year marking the anniversaries of Henry Purcell's birth (1658 or 1659) and Handel's death (1759).

Proposals for papers are now invited. Papers should be of 20 minutes duration, and the proposal should be presented as an abstract of not more than 250words. Proposals for thematic round-table sessions will also be considered. Proposals should be submitted by 30 October 2008, and should be sent to
valerie.james@sas.ac.uk. Please include your name, contact details and (if applicable) your affiliation within your proposal.

An outline programme for the conference will be prepared and circulated early in 2009, so that accepted participants can plan their travel arrangements. Funding for the conference will be sought, but this is likely to be limited and participants are requested to seek support from their own institutions where this is possible. If a large number of good quality proposals on topics germane to the conference theme are received, an additional day for the conference may be scheduled on Thursday 19 November. For the conference abstract, see overleaf.

The conference programme committee, which will consider and review all paper proposals, comprises representatives from all of the sponsoring institutions:

Robert Fraser, Delia Da Sousa Correa, Donald Burrows (OU/Handel Institute); Sandra Tuppen, Bruce Wood (Purcell Society), Katharine Ellis (IMR), Sandra Clark (IES), Colin Timms (Handel Institute). Specialist papers may be referred to other members of these institutions, but the final decisions on conference content will be taken by the committee.

Purcell, Handel and Literature
Conference abstract
Taken together, the careers of the two composers constitute one of the most remarkable periods in London's music-making. Although Handel's career in London commenced only fifteen years after Purcell's death, their styles in setting English texts were very different, partly because of their individual approaches to word-setting, and partly because of the different styles in which they worked. Yet for both of them English literary texts—reaching as far back as Shakespeare in Purcell’s case—were fundamental to aspects of their activity. Both wrote for major productions (of plays or un-staged oratorios) in the London theatres, and contributed to some common genres - Cecilian and court odes, and liturgical church music on texts from the Book of Common Prayer. Handel set odes by John Dryden that had originally been written during Purcell's lifetime, and also texts by John Milton; texts by Congreve (though not the same ones) form a common thread in works by both composers. Nahum Tate was the librettist of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas; Handel's anthems include settings of texts from the metrical versions of the Psalms by Tate and Brady. Both composers, however, were also reliant on other librettists of their own generations: D'Urfey for Purcell's stage works, for example, Miller, Jennens and Morell for Handel's oratorios.

The intention of the conference is to bring together participants with interests in music and literature, and to cover a range of relevant topics, such as: the literary and musical genres, the nature of the libretti and the composers' treatment of them; the various forms of musical dramas (as genres, and in relation to the stage conventions of the 17th and 18th centuries); the status of Milton and Dryden as "musical" poets; the influence of text settings by Purcell and Handel on subsequent composers, and in subsequent literature; the genres of the court and Cecilian odes; the setting of English liturgical texts.

Although it is anticipated that the principal focus will be on English texts (and London performance conditions), the theme may also encompass the influence of Italian and Classical literature, Handel's settings of Italian texts in his operas and cantatas, and relevant topics relating to German literature. Proposals for papers that consider the importance of either or both these composers within literature of later periods will also be welcomed.