In recent years Purcell's biography has received a good deal of attention, but there has been little writing on his music; indeed, this book provides the first general survey since Sir Jack Westrup's 1937 volume in the Master Musicians series. Furthermore, it is the first book to explore in detail the historical context of Purcell's music, dealing fully with the institutions he worked for, the origin and development of the various genres to which he contributed, and the sources of his music. In the process, a new picture of Purcell's creative personality emerges: a composer obsessed with formal counterpoint, extraordinarily well-versed in English music of the previous century, yet eager to embrace up-to-date features of the Italian style in the 1680s.
`a work of impeccable scholarship exploring the genres within which Purcell worked, their musical and social contexts, and investigating current crises in Purcell scholarship ... Holman writes beautifully, and illustrates his text with meticulously reproduced music examples'
`This is a balanced study, strong in scholarship and analysis, full of performance information ... it is strongly recommended to those searching for a comprehensive reassessment of Purcell's music by one author, which has thoroughly assimilated the research and advances in this area, particularly of the last 15 years.'
BBC Music Magazine
`...is a welcome addition to the justifiably growing number of studies concerned with late 17th century English music in general and with Purcell in particular...a remarkably helpful and pleasant book, one which ought to be on the shelves of all Purcellians and which bids fair to become a set text for courses on late 17th century English music and on the work of Purcell...a fine piece of work, and students and established scholars will have to take is
seriously- for years to come, no doubt'
Seventeenth Century News
'The great merits of the book derive from the fact that the author knows the music well both as scholar and as performer and similarly knows the music by Purcell's predecessors and contemporaries ... it is as clear as its subject allows and perseverance is rewarding. It provides context and evaluation: two vital elements which so many books on music fudge. This may safely be bought now without fear that any of the forthcoming Purcell books will make it
Early Music Review, February 1995
'Comparison with the old Master Musicians volume by Jack Westrup (last revised in 1980 and still in print) is inevitable, but Holman meets it well. He takes account of the latest research, and his intimate, performer's knowledge of the music gives his critical judgments real authority'
`Discussion of the music is kept nicely in balance with its context...performer's knowledge of the music gives his critical judgements real authority.'
`a balanced study of Purcell's music ... his discussion of the music is insightful, and his observations concerning instrumental developments are particularly valuable'
Classical Music, June/July 1995
`...Holman's study clarifies brilliantly the musical context of Purcell's work. Throughout, the reader will find reasoned enthusiasm, generous acknowledgement of prior schols, commonsense judgements, and many thought-provoking facts and ideas. Useful footnotes, fine bibliography. Bravo!'
`thorough and up-to-date bioigraphy ... serious and honest investigation of musical matters, and not a stone left unturned'
Jonathan Freeman-Atwood, Gramophone, January 1996
`Holman ... provides a comprehensive survey of each genre - vocal, choral, instrumental and theatre music.'
Times Higher Education Supplement
`Among the books, one of the best is also one of the least pretentious: Henry Purcell by Peter Holman ... The text is illustrated with a generous number of musical examples. The latest manuscript discoveries and recent scholarship (as of 1994) are noted in Holman's account.'
Larry Palmer, The Diapason
`the author's enthusiasm for Purcell's music and his comprehensive treatment of its distinct genres undoubtedly will contribute to the renewal of both scholarly and practical interest in the composer and his music'
James B. Hartman, Diapason, November 1997